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UMM enrollment on rise?

By Britney Appier

Sun Tribune

Student applications to the University of Minnesota, Morris have increased by one-third so far this year, but it's not known yet if renewed interest will translate into significantly higher enrollment in 2008-2009.

UMM has received 1,490 applications this year, according to James Morales, Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment.

That's a 33 percent increase from the 1,124 applications last year. But confirmed student enrollment hasn't risen as sharply.

By the end of June, 385 applicants had confirmed their enrollment for this fall, which is a 7 percent increase from last year's 360 students, and will continue to increase until the Fall semester starts.

UMM enrollment rates have declined in recent years, although Morales said he's seeing an upward trend. He attributed the increase to more aggressive marketing efforts, improvements in the university's scholarship program, and students taking a new look at the value of a liberal arts education.

UMM has embarked on several new marketing strategies in an effort to improve the application rate, and Morales believes the work to give UMM a higher public profile is beginning to pay off.

The scholarship program was recently "revamped" for the first time in 10 years, he said. UMM lagged behind other schools, which had continued to improve scholarship programs during that time. UMM was playing "catch up," Morales said.

"One of the many reasons for the decrease was the widespread belief that a liberal arts education was no longer valuable," Morales said. "However, the tide is shifting back because they realize that a liberal arts education is the most valuable and flexible."

UMM''s academic standards for prospective students have not changed, Morales said, with required ACT scores and class rankings holding stable over the years. UMM and other universities, have dropped an essay writing requirement because it's now part of the students' ACT testing.

UMM applicants who rank among the top of their high school class has increased, as well. This year's applicants who rank in the top 5 percent of their classes have increased 25 percent over last year, while applicants ranking among the top 10 percent to 15 percent have increased 40 percent over last year, Morales said.

The diversity of UMM's student body has increased overall, and especially among African-Americans, Morales said.

The number of African-American applicants has increased by 125 percent this year. Morales said the marked increase is likely due to the area's changing demographics and a more intensive recruitment effort by university officials.

UMM's goal is to increase freshmen enrollment to 400 to 430 students a year without having to lower standards to achieve that figure, Morales said.