Freshman Class More Selective; Graduate Enrollment Up 5 Percent, Third Highest in UB's History

By Arthur Page

Release Date: October 25, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has posted its highest enrollment in almost seven years, markedly increasing its graduate-student population and pulling in one of the most academically talented freshman classes in years.

Based on an "enrollment snapshot" taken on Sept. 14, a total of 25,838 students are enrolled at UB for the fall semester, an increase of slightly more than 1,000 from the Fall 2000 figure of 24,830. The figure reflects a 2 percent increase over the State University of New York(SUNY) enrollment target of 25,300.

In addition to the total enrollment target, UB met or exceeded slightly SUNY targets for freshman, transfer and graduate enrollments. In particular, the university increased graduate enrollment by 5 percent over the Fall 2000 figure, from 8,147 to 8,548, which Sean P. Sullivan, vice provost for enrollment and planning, called "the third-highest graduate enrollment in our history."

"Obviously, we're delighted with this fall's enrollment numbers," said Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi. "This outcome is a result of much hard work by many people here at UB, particularly Vice Provost Sean Sullivan; Regina Toomey, associate vice provost for new student recruitment programs, and Katharine Ferguson, associate vice provost and director of graduate recruitment services. They and their staff members are to be commended for doing an outstanding job," Capaldi said.

The enrollment numbers "strongly reflect the strategic enrollment plan the university has set out to achieve over the next three years as articulated in its Memorandum of Understanding" with SUNY, said Sullivan.

While the actual headcount of the freshman class fell slightly from last year -- from 3,059 to 2,997 -- the number of continuing/returning students rose by 8 percent from Fall 2000, from 10,052 to 10,813.

Sullivan attributed the increase in retention to efforts in first-year programming, such as UB 101, as well as personalizing advisement services by moving advisement into the individual units. "We're just trying to pay that much more attention to students," he said.

UB also is attracting better students, he said, "and the literature shows that better students persist to the degree, both faster and more continuously, than do those that are not as well prepared."

But, Sullivan noted, UB has an "aggressive goal that we're a long way from" of 90 percent retention of students from freshman to sophomore year, a substantial increase from the current figure of 84.6 percent.

In describing the high quality of the freshman class, he pointed out that the class has the highest mean composite SAT score for enrolled regular-admit freshman -- 1156, up six points from Fall 2000 -- since the SAT score methodology was changed in 1996. Of this fall's entering first-time freshmen, 37.89 percent are part of the "most selective" group of the SUNY selectivity matrix -- minimum high school grade-point average of 85 and minimum SAT score of 1100 to 1300, depending on GPA. Another 44.19 percent fall into the "highly selective" category, with a minimum GPA of 80 and a minimum SAT score from 1000 to 1200. Sullivan said UB has achieved the highest percentages of students in these two groups since the matrix has been used to measure selectivity.

Moreover, UB received the largest number of total freshman applications since 1989, he said. The acceptance rate for applicants is down to a 10-year low of 68.9 percent, and the yield on accepted applicants of 28.7 percent is the highest yield in the past 21 years.

"Our success demonstrates that excellent students are seeing a UB education as a tremendous value -- and this is exactly what we will continue to stress in our communications with these students and their parents," he said. "We are building a new kind of supportive academic environment that will stimulate and prepare these students more effectively for their future careers.

"We expect that our efforts to attract and serve these high-achieving students will result in higher retention and four-year graduation rates in the years ahead."

Although Sullivan said his office bears the title of "enrollment planning," the university's recruitment effort "just doesn't happen without the cooperation of the entire university."

Faculty and schools are much more involved in the process than they were six or seven years ago-meeting with students, advising students, recruiting students, he said.

"The institution has come together recognizing how essential our enrollment outcomes are to both our financial health and our health in general as an institution," he said. "Everybody is starting to realize that everybody in this university has a role in enrollment management."