UB, Tapping into the Most Qualified High-School Seniors, Looking Forward to its Largest Freshman Class in History

3,782 entering freshmen have made security deposits; largest class since 1980

By Arthur Page

Release Date: June 24, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- More than 3,700 students -- 500 more than anticipated -- have sent in deposits to secure their place in this fall's incoming freshman class at the University at Buffalo.

The 3,782 freshmen who have placed deposits would constitute UB's largest freshman class in history, breaking the record held by the 3,574 freshmen that entered the university in 1980.

And the better news is that the growth in applications to UB and the yield for this fall's entering class involve high-school seniors in the top selectivity group -- those with a minimum high school grade-point average of 94 and a minimum SAT score of 1400.

The situation is "an admissions and enrollment officer's dream," said Sean P. Sullivan, UB vice provost for enrollment and planning.

"All the application growth was at the high end of the (talent) pool, which is what we're always hoping for," he added. "We've spent six years creating and delivering the message that we are a place for talented students. We've developed financial strategies, scholarship strategies, student-support strategies that really have responded to what the talented students are looking for; it's paying off.

"That's where UB wants to be; we want to be a first-choice institution for the most talented students out there," he said.

Sullivan noted that a similar surge in the incoming freshman class is being reported by UB's "peer and aspirant institutions," including the University of Michigan, University of Illinois and Ohio State University.

"They are reporting unprecedented increases leading to classes larger than they anticipated," Sullivan noted. "We are in the company of the best public universities in the country."

The huge incoming class has posed challenges for UB's student-services infrastructure, from housing, food service and orientation to security, parking and busing. It has made for more work as well on the academic side.

Sullivan said UB's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) has done a "wonderful job" assuring that there will be enough instructors and course sections to accommodate the additional students.

"We are providing enough freshman courses so that every student will have the classes they need to get off to a good start," says Peter Gold, CAS associate dean for general education. This is being done in a variety of ways, Gold says, including increasing class size where possible, adding course sections, hiring some adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, creating additional classrooms and expanding the day for many students -- the teaching day will extend from 7:30 a.m. for chemistry labs to courses that end at 9:30 p.m.

The college has added for the fall semester 27 lectures, 22 lab sections and 54 recitations seating an additional 2,200 enrollments and generating about 8,300 more credit hours, he says.

The incoming freshman class also is providing some challenges for those at the university who provide the services to support these students.

Dennis Black, vice president for student affairs, said that all students, including incoming freshmen, transfer and continuing students, who desire on-campus housing and submitted their deposits by May 1 will be guaranteed a bed.

Staff is reclaiming as bed space all areas on campus that formerly were used as residence space, but now are being used as office space, he said. Rooms also will be "tripled," and while that practice has been done in the past in the short term, it likely will be a yearlong proposition this year, he added.

Moreover, contracts will be drawn up with local motels to provide residential space to students, if needed. "We'll do that for the short-term until there's a natural attrition in the residence halls," he added.

Black said the university also will have to add buses to the intra-campus transportation

system, extend food-service hours, and add another session to the summer orientation program, as well as make some adjustments to the parking situation.

"Our goal is to provide the same kind of services we want students to have under regular circumstances," he said. "We have a commitment to make it work for everybody."

The size of the freshman class came as somewhat of a surprise to UB admissions staff. The SUNY goal for UB for incoming freshmen for Fall 2003 was 3,000, and with a yield assumption based on applications and admitted students, staff expected a class of around 3,200. The yield -- the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll -- was much better than that, with 3,782 students actually sending in deposits as of last week.

"The kind of applications we're getting are from the most talented students -- those students who are admissible under almost any criteria we would develop," Sullivan said. "The application-rate growth showed itself late in the year, and the yield growth showed itself very late in the year, so we couldn't make adjustments in admissions decisioning by the time we really knew we had a great response from the market."

He explained that based on history, the admissions office makes assumptions about where to "draw the line in terms of who is admissible."

The office developed its methodology and applied it all year. "But with the increase in applications -- all good, talented students -- we ended up probably admitting more students than we needed to admit to meet the class size," Sullivan said.

He noted that UB this year received 4,776 applications from students in the top selectivity group -- those with a minimum high school grade-point average of 94 and a minimum SAT score of 1400 -- an increase of 827 over the 3,949 applications received last year from students in that top group.

Patricia Armstrong, director of admissions, said UB's increasing popularity with the most talented students also is evident when one looks at the quality indicators. "Not only was there an appreciable increase in numbers of applications, but also an increase in the yield," she says. "That's usually the most difficult group to enroll -- the more highly talented the student, the more sought after they are by other institutions. We experienced wonderful growth in our yield."

Armstrong and Sullivan pointed to preliminary figures indicating that the yield for the incoming freshman class jumped to 35 percent this year, compared to 31 percent for the entering class of 2002 and 29 percent for the entering class of 1998.

Sullivan also stressed that UB has increased as well the geographic diversity of the entering class in 2003 from 2002 and before, garnering more applications, acceptances and enrollees from all parts of the state, as well as out of state. In particular, the number of enrolled students from Metro New York -- a target area for admissions staff -- is up about 50 percent from last year, and out-of-state enrollments also are up by 50 percent. "We're trying to be much more of a regional, rather than just a statewide, university, and ultimately, to be a national university," he says. "We're making steps in that direction."

Sullivan and Armstrong attribute the tremendous increase in applications -- and ultimately admitted students -- to a number of factors. Among them Armstrong cited an expanded University Honors Program and UB Scholars Program; the Alumni Ambassadors program in which alumni attend college fairs to sing the praises of UB to prospective students, and hard work by admissions staff, who completed 25,000 telecounseling calls to prospective students, used instant messaging -- sometimes until 11 p.m. -- to contact high school students, and developed better relationships with high school counselors, many of whom were flown and bused onto campus to see for themselves what UB has to offer.

Sullivan says it's hard at this point to assess the impact on student recruitment of UB's exposure on MTV's "Fraternity Life" and "Sorority Life 2" shows, which focused on UB students and showcased UB and Buffalo to a national audience in the millions, probably aired too late in the year to have an impact on applications, he says, although the programs may have had a slight impact on yield.