UB freshman enrollment tops 4,000 for first time in university’s history

Students on the academic spine on the University at Buffalo's North Campus.

Students on the academic spine on the University at Buffalo's North Campus. Photo: Douglas Levere

Release Date: September 20, 2017

Lee Melvin, seated at his desk.

Lee Melvin

“We have an exciting story to share, and we’re very excited about where we are headed. ”
Lee Melvin, vice provost for enrollment
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A new approach to student recruitment, coupled with a brand strategy aimed at communicating the University at Buffalo’s distinctiveness to a much wider audience, has helped UB enroll another record-breaking freshman class this fall.

UB enrolled 4,045 first-year students this fall, the largest freshman class in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It also tops last year’s record-setting figure, which was just shy of 4,000 freshmen. Applications and enrollment have continued to rise since 2011 as UB more strongly positions itself as a destination university for prospective students from across the U.S. and around the globe.

“We have an exciting story to share, and we’re very excited about where we are headed,” said UB Vice Provost for Enrollment Lee Melvin, who joined the university four years ago.

“Our enrollment figures have increased to where we thought they would be,” Melvin said, adding that UB’s enrollment this academic year stands at 30,648.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi outlined a plan in 2015 to steadily and strategically grow the university’s total enrollment by 2,000 students. “We’re getting closer to that figure, and we feel confident that we will achieve and perhaps exceed our goal,” Melvin said.

The domestic freshman class is 3,709. UB enrolled 336 first-year international students this fall. That figure is lower than the target of 400 international students UB was hoping for, but still good considering the uncertainty many prospective international students faced given the Trump administration’s stance toward immigration, Melvin noted.

Inside Higher Ed reported earlier this month that many universities have experienced a decline in international student enrollment this fall, some by as much as 30 to 50 percent.

Overall, UB continues to receive more applications for admission than at any point in its history. In fact, applications are up 22 percent since 2013. For this year, UB received approximately 27,800 applications for freshman admission — about 2,000 more than the previous year.  Moreover, UB’s admissions team is receiving more requests than ever from prospective students who want to learn more about the university.

Within the past few years, UB has improved its admissions decision process by shifting to a holistic review that takes into account much more than a student’s test scores. In addition, UB has increased significantly the number of student recruitment events it holds both on and off campus, and has paid greater attention to metrics to gauge these efforts.

UB’s new brand strategy, launched last year, is beginning to pay dividends as the university tells its story to a national and international audience, while expressing the unique experiences of being at the university and in Buffalo.

“We’re attracting attention for UB in an increasingly competitive higher education environment by distinctively communicating more clearly and consistently about our mission and impact on the world,” said Nancy Paton, UB’s vice president for communications. By strengthening its reputation, UB is attracting and retaining talented students and world-class faculty, while building pride and inspiring faculty, staff, students and alumni, she added.

UB continues to climb in the influential U.S. News & World Report college rankings. It is now tied for 97th among national universities and No. 41 among public universities. UB has moved up 24 spots in the national rankings over the past decade. And it isn’t just the university that’s on the rise. Buffalo is a surging city whose comeback has made the region more attractive to prospective students.

Paton also cites the growth in national and international media coverage for UB’s research, education and service impact. That, in turn, creates awareness and familiarity with the university among prospective students and their families through social and digital media.

For example, Facebook continues to be a significant channel through which UB can connect with prospective students and convey to the adults in their lives why UB is a good choice, she added. “Social and digital media platforms are important channels on which to tell the distinctive stories of who were are, what we do and why it matters in a way that resonates very individually to audiences. We’re focusing our efforts on telling our stories through those channels,” Paton said.

The UB brand strategy aims to tell the story of what the student experience is like at the university. “Our research has told us that students today are very interested in being able to create and pursue learning opportunities that best prepare them for success,” Paton said. UB is able to provide all that through the UB Curriculum, the entrepreneurial incubator program known as Blackstone LaunchPad, the Honors College and more.

UB’s story is resonating, university officials say. “As we’ve grown our prominence, we know that more students are going to apply to UB,” Melvin said.

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