By NIKKI OESTREICHER & HOPE RACINE
Despite a record high number of applicants for the freshman class of 2019, current figures place the actual number of enrolled students thus far well below the expected figure for incoming students. As a result, admissions and administration at the University of Mary Washington is seeking new ways to encourage enrollment, such as easing the SAT score requirement.
At this past weekend’s Board of Visitors meeting, Kimberly Buster–Williams, associate provost for enrollment management, and Provost Jonathan Levin presented the possibility of eliminating the SAT requirement for some incoming students.
The suggestion is not radical and is used at almost 800 universities around the country as a way to appeal to students with higher grades. The plan proposed by Levin and Buster-Williams would allow students with a certain GPA to bypass the SAT requirement. Buster-Williams said at the meeting that a possible cutoff point for this requirement could be a GPA between 3.65 and 3.5.
If put into action, the plan would run for three years as a test program, with the ability to be reviewed at the end of the three years.
According to Levin, GPA is more effective than SAT scores at predicting the future success of applicants. Currently, the average UMW student GPA is 3.54, with SAT scores falling between 1030 to 1190.
Other students question the ability of SAT scores to represent an applicant. Sophomore Margret Taite said she felt a discrepancy between academic performance and SAT scores.
“I did horribly on the SATs, but I had great grades in high school, but I’m just a horrible test taker,” said Taite.
According to Taite, she felt the academic profile created by the test failed to describe her potential.
“The tests weren’t an accurate representation of how I would be as a student,” said Taite.
Students such as sophomore biology major Paul Delaney said they see the value of the SATs but question the role the scores should play in the application process.
“I still think they should still be taken, I don’t know how greatly they should be weighed,” said Delaney.
If approved during April’s BOV meeting, the plan would go in effect for students applying for the 2016-17 academic year.
In addition to the proposed SAT plan, the first year experience has been fully reworked for the incoming class of 2019.
First year students will now take part in an interactive seminar focused around community building and establishing common bonds between classmates. In addition, living learning communities will be included as part of the seminar process.
According to Undergraduate Admissions, the admissions committee reviewed a record-breaking number of 5,336 freshman applications for the fall of 2014, and admission was offered to 4,094 candidates. However, only 856 students enrolled as first-time freshmen.
Levin noted that the University has typically yielded a freshman class of 930 students.
“We’ve only ever broken the 950 mark three times in the school’s history,” said Levin.
Based on current in-state tuition and approximate room and board fees alone, under-enrollment has amounted to over $1.4 million in revenue losses for the university. The estimate excludes revenue from out-of-state tuition losses.
Levin cites a multitude of reasons for the unexpected shortfall, including the increasing number of colleges to which students apply due to rising pressures to attend college and increasing competitiveness. The trend complicates the admission officers’ difficult job of determining which accepted students will enroll.
“Thirty years ago, students would apply to maybe three or four colleges. Nowadays, people apply to eight-to-ten schools,” said Levin. “Applicants are not as serious.”
Surveys sent out to accepted students who declined to go to UMW include a question asking which school the admitted student has chosen to attend.
“Most students replied with ‘James Madison University,’ followed by ‘George Mason University” and ‘Virginia Commonwealth University,’” said President Rick Hurley, suggesting that UMW is losing out to bigger schools with more well-known names.
Levin also cited last year’s construction projects as a factor.
“The ITCC construction really hurt us,” said Levin.
Like many students, Levin said he believes UMW has a beautiful campus, but the ITCC and the new campus center construction sites undoubtedly disrupted the campus aesthetic, potentially turning off prospective students.
The final figure for next year’s incoming class will not be known until May, when all registration is completed.