Enrollment misses target
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 21:10
Chris Lucier’s job is to predict the behavior of 18-year-olds.
At least, that’s how he would describe his position as vice president of enrollment.
Lucier said he uses current student trends to ensure that UVM hits its student enrollment targets — though the numbers aren’t always a sure bet.
“Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong,” he said.
The Fall 2012 Enrollment Report showed that the numbers of students enrolled change considerably from year to year, he said.
There are 381 fewer students at UVM this fall than last year, according to the report.
With out-of-state tuition at $49,135 per year and in-state students paying $28,463, any sizeable decrease in the student body might seem like a substantial loss in revenue for the school, but that wasn’t the case, Lucier said.
“The first-year class is only about two percent smaller,” he said. “Within enrollment management, that means you’re okay.”
In terms of revenue, Lucier called this year a success due to greater numbers of out-of-state students and an increase in family incomes, which pose less of a burden on financial aid.
Beth Wiser, director of admissions, said that the yield of out-of-state students remained steady, and UVM’s situation was indicative of a national trend.
“We know that there are fewer students in the markets which means that we will see some declines in enrollment,” she stated in an email.
Still, there were 2,742 first-year students last fall and 2,655 first-year students this year, according to enrollment data. So how do Lucier and his colleagues account for those students that get accepted to UVM but decide not to attend?
“Instead of using a three-year model, we look at the behavior of last year’s class, which is a good predictor but not guaranteed,” Lucier said. “I think there’s a degree of accuracy expected, but remember, we’re trying to predict the behavior of 18-year-olds.”
There was one area in particular where enrollment and admissions received a bit of a surprise, Wiser said.
The College of Nursing is only supposed to have 75 first-year students for accreditation purposes, but this year 102 students who had been admitted decided to attend UVM, she said.
“We had more students interested in nursing say yes to us at a much higher rate than has occurred in any of the past years of nursing applicants,” Wiser stated.
The University responded to the significant jump by putting a plan in place that maintained the required student to instructor ratio, she said.
While student enrollment has increased by about 27 percent over the past decade, the size of the faculty has increased by 13 percent, according to the report.
Some people, like professor David Shiman, said that in light of this trend, a smaller undergraduate population might not be a bad thing; it might, in fact, even be necessary.
“If this institution wishes to offer a rich undergraduate experience in a welcoming environment, we must hire more faculty,” he stated in an email. “And slow, halt or reverse the undergraduate enrollment trend.”
Students like sophomores Sarah Gibson and Derek Neal said they felt UVM was at capacity, and that 381 fewer students on campus hardly seemed to make a difference.
“That number is barely a drop in the context of how many students go here overall,” Neal said. “And in terms of housing, the University is already overcrowded, considering how many forced triples there are.”
Gibson said she agreed.
“I think fewer students is a good thing because UVM should focus on bringing its academics to a caliber we hold ourselves to,” she said. “To do that you need less students so that faculty members can do their jobs better.”