October 1, 1998
At first glance, the numbers might fool you. The fall 1998 incoming freshman class--which came in at 1,356 students--is down 40 students from last year. Was it an off year in the Office of Undergraduate Admission? Not according to Richard Whiteside, vice president for enrollment management and institutional research.
"We were right on target in terms of what we wanted in both numbers and quality," Whiteside says. "We were looking for 1,350, and we actually came in at 1,356. I don't know what else one can say. When you come in where you're supposed to be, it's a victory."
It's not that this year's class is down, Whiteside explains, but that last year's class was up. Way up. Topping out at 1,396 students--about 40 students over projections--last year's class created an unexpected nightmare for the Department of Housing and residence life.
With the Katherine and William Mayer Residences unfinished as of freshman move-in day in August 1997, Residence Life had to scramble for beds to accommodate the abundance. To ensure that all freshmen were housed on campus last fall, some upperclassmen were temporarily housed at the Hampton Inn on St. Charles Avenue, until rooms could be made available. By comparison, this year's freshman move-in was smooth as ice.
"Basically, we wanted to make sure we had enough dormitory space for everybody," Whiteside says. The only undergraduate college to see an increase in freshman enrollment over last year is engineering, which jumped from 207 to 230 students. "Engineering is continuing to grow," Whiteside says. "It had bottomed out in 1995, and so we've been wanting to increase the number of freshmen there."
The quality of this year's class is essentially the same as last year's. The average SAT score for fall 1998 incoming freshmen is 1278, a drop of three points from last year. Interest in Tulane also appears to be growing. The admission office logged 96,000 inquiries this year as opposed to 78,000 last year. Whiteside estimates that his office will field well over 100,000 inquiries during the coming year.
Applications, on the other hand, were down, a fact Whiteside attributes to a national movement toward high school students submitting fewer multiple applications. Reasons students cite for their interest in Tulane remain the same as in recent years.
"The general quality of the academic program continues to be the primary draw," Whiteside says. "I think more people are becoming aware of what a great institution we really are, and the fact that we've been ranked as one of the best buys in the country is an impressive kind of thing. The fact that we're in New Orleans still has a strong pulling power. There's a lot of popularity in the city."
As he and his staff continue to work on recruiting the fall 1999 class, Whiteside has the benefit of a new recruiting tool: Tulane President Scott Cowen.
"If you've ever seen him speak, he's a magnetic personality in front of an audience," Whiteside says. "I have to believe that will translate into more interest in Tulane just because of his own enthu-siasm for the university and his own vision for where we're going."
Fall 1998 Freshman Class 1998 1997 Total 1,356 1,396 Architecture 57 71 Engineering 230 207 Newcomb 615 661 Tulane 454 457 Average SAT Score 1278 1281
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