Freshman class bigger than last year

Alex Rubenstein thought he’d be walking the streets of Greenwich Village to get to his college classes this fall. But New York University’s steep price tag means he’ll be walking Route 1 instead of the streets of Manhattan.

“It was 100 percent the economy; it cut my college fund in half,” said Rubenstein, a Gaithersburg resident and senior at Northwest High School. “If it wasn’t for the economic downturn, my parents would have been able to pay for NYU in full.”

The officials Office of Undergraduate Admissions figured more students and families would think like Rubenstein. After a smaller-than-expected incoming class last year, the university admitted about 1,000 more incoming freshmen this year, figuring many students wouldn’t be able to afford to attend. So far, about 36 percent of admitted students have confirmed to attend the university, up from 35.5 percent at this time last year. Shannon Gundy, the director of undergraduate admissions, said the university is hitting its enrollment goals.

As of Friday, the incoming class of 2013 stands at 4,318 students, Gundy said. She projects that number to fall to about 4,000 due to “summer melt,” as students defer admission or get off waitlists at other universities. Gundy predicts the yield, or the percent of admitted students who actually enroll, to be the same as last year’s, which was 35.6 percent. This year’s actual yield won’t be calculated until after school starts and enrollment numbers become official. In 2006 and 2007, the yield rate was about 37 percent.

The university made a number of predictions about students’ behavior in relation to the economic downturn. Last year, fewer out-of-state students came to the university. The economic downturn is more likely to impact out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, so the university admitted more out-of-state students, Gundy said. Slightly more in-state students have confirmed to come to the university compared to last year, Gundy said.

Some campus living and learning programs also saw spikes in enrollment.

Almost 1,000 incoming students have accepted invitations to the University Honors Program, compared to an unusually low 750 students in 2008, according to Director Bill Dorland. Typically, the program enrolls between 800 and 900 students, he said.

The program is based around small seminar courses, so enrolling more students means offering additional classes. This strains faculty resources more than finances.

“It’s not money that has to change hands, it’s the commitment of people to teach Honors courses,” Dorland said. He does not plan to admit fewer students to Honors in the future.

Enrollment in Gemstone, a subset of Honors, is also up. Out of about 1,000 invitees, about 195 typically accept, said Angela Dawson, the program’s academic advisor. This year, about 250 have accepted. Both Dawson and Dorland expect the number of acceptances to their programs to drop over the summer.

College Park Scholars has yet to reach its target enrollment of 840 students, said Mike Colson, associate director for admissions and registration. It’s easier for Scholars to under-enroll and add students over the summer than it is to over-enroll, Colson said.

“We can’t just create a Scholars program on the fly,” he said.

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