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Plan for Growth Bearing Fruit
Freshman Class Up By 13 Percent
August 30, 1999

The class that joined the UConn family Saturday is larger, has a higher academic profile, and is more diverse than last year's freshman class - a class that also was larger and more diverse than its predecessor, the entering class in 1997, officials said last week.

Growth is becoming an annual event in Storrs, and at the regional campuses, as word spreads across the nation regarding UConn's transformation - physically, thanks to UConn 2000, and academically, as efforts to enhance the undergraduate experience mature.

Rankings released last week by U.S. News & World Report, in its annual college guide, should help next year - the magazine ranks UConn the best public university in New England, and the 31st best in the nation.

Having a national championship basketball season doesn't hurt either, says M. Dolan Evanovich, associate provost for enrollment management.

"What the championship does is give us visibility where it may not have existed" before UConn beat Duke to win the championship, Evanovich says. "Then, when people investigate further, they realize we offer a high quality education that represents an outstanding value."

Outstanding enough, in fact, that the Class of 2003 should be about 13 percent larger than last year's freshman cohort, and they bring with them an aggregate SAT score that is 16 points higher than the previous class - a 24 point gain over the two-year period. The regional campuses are anticipating a freshman class about 5 percent larger than last year's class.

Officials hope to continue the overall trend into the new century. The strategic plan calls for 5 percent increases annually, until the total undergraduate population crests at about 25,000, with a continued push on quality as well.

To accommodate the growth, and to provide space for students displaced by plans to renovate several residence halls each year, officials are making plans to build apartment-style residence halls off Alumni and Stadium roads, near the Hilltop residence halls.

The plans call for construction of one or two units, initially, that can accommodate 400-500 students. If that effort is positive, several more may be built, says Larry Schiling, University architect.

Last year's freshman cohort was 17 percent larger than the previous year's class.

Other indicators that people are noticing UConn include:

  • Twenty-seven Connecticut high school valedictorians start classes in Storrs this week - more than at any other university in Connecticut - another indication that UConn is becoming the college of choice for the state's best students;

  • UConn's diversity continues to improve, with more than a 29 percent increase in the number of incoming students of color during the last two years;

  • Geographic diversity is increasing as well, with the number of out-of-state freshmen who have committed to UConn, through August 25, approximately 30 percent higher than last year's class.

  • Recent academic initiatives that have helped attract new students include the First Year Experience programs and the ACES academic advising center for undecided majors.

The $1 billion, 10-year UConn 2000 program, continues to bear fruit, with two more projects - major additions to the School of Fine Arts facility, and a new building for research and studies in agricultural biotechnology - expected to open during the coming academic year.

The new biology/ physics complex on North Eagleville Road is more than 50 percent complete, and workers have started or are about to begin several other projects, including adding to and renovating residence halls in Northwest campus, constructing a new building for the School of Business Administration, and completely renovating Wilbur Cross Building into a one-stop student services center.

Despite the work at the Northwest residence halls, one of which has been razed and two closed, Department of Residential Life officials say there is enough room in the residence halls for everyone who wants to live on campus, with only a handful of triples, some of which were requested.

Similarly, says Susan Steele, vice provost for undergraduate education and instruction, all incoming students should have complete course schedules when classes begin September 1.

Everyone who registered during orientation - and a record 2,750 did - received a full schedule of courses meeting requirements, as did all other new students who have registered to date. About 50 students have yet to register, but Steele says there should be room for them too, noting that there are still some sections open in freshman English, math and history, traditionally the busiest courses. Other areas are tight, she said, but some flexibility remains.

Meanwhile, the much-watched annual rankings in U.S. News & World Report vaulted UConn up seven positions from last year, one of the largest gains among all public universities.

The annual guide also mentions UConn and three of its top students prominently in a story discussing efforts by public universities to attract the best students in the nation to their classrooms.

"It's another indicator that we're doing the right things," says Evanovich. "It's good to see that our peers and potential students are recognizing the remarkable transformation that is taking place at UConn."

Richard Veilleux