Stats: New class best yet for NU

Lauren Kelleher and Matt Spector and Lauren Kelleher and Matt Spector

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The enrolled class for fall 2009 is more diverse and higher achieving than last year’s, according to statistics released Friday by Michael Mills, the associate provost for University enrollment.

Northwestern was also relatively less selective than last year, admitting 27 percent of applicants versus 26.2 percent of applicants last year.

NU initially admitted more students this year because the University was concerned about students’ ability to pay, Mills wrote in an e-mail.

“Many private colleges and universities did the same thing for the same reason,” he wrote.

This year marked a small yet significant increase in minority student enrollment. Mills said this year’s freshman class’ black enrollment is the highest in more than 10 years, going from 87 students last year to 132 this year.

Hispanic/Latino student enrollment also saw a marginal increase, up 140 students from last year’s 135.

Alianza President Arianna Hermosillo said while she is happy to see any increase in Hispanic/Latino enrollment the small increase “proves not enough is being done.”

Mills attributed these increases to a variety of factors including NU’s partnership with QuestBridge, a non-profit organization that facilitates the college matching process for low-income, high achieving students. NU also waived application fees for Chicago Public School students and hosted on-campus events for under-represented students and their high school counselors.

Associated Student Government President Mike McGee said he couldn’t point to one specific initiative that helped increase minority enrollment statistics for 2009, but added that improving the prospective student experience last spring was a crucial component.

“We put a lot of effort into Preview NU,” McGee said, “including paying for students to come who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford to visit. And waiving the application fee for some students certainly helped as well.”

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs held a weekend for minority prospective students last spring, including a For Members Only sponsored concert by R&B artist Solange Knowles for which 300 tickets were reserved for black prospective students and their student hosts .

McGee said he would like to see the continuation of these events throughout the admissions process this year, and suggested other ideas for outreach, including increasing NU’s presence in Chicago through mentoring programs for high school students.

Alianza has organized several visits to campus for local high school students, Hermosillo said. She added that other campus organizations, such as the Council of Latino Admission Volunteers for Education, conduct phoneathons in the fall and spring to encourage Latino students to apply to NU and tell them how to get their application fee waived.

Getting minority students to enroll at NU is only “half the battle,” McGee said. He echoed what he said was a resounding message in University President Morton O. Schapiro’s inauguration speech. “We need to put more resources into … making sure it is a friendly climate where they can excel and graduate,” McGee said. “So that if there are 132 black freshman this year that number won’t be at 115 by the time they graduate.”

Hermosillo said she hopes to see more collaboration between multicultural student groups and admissions to attract all minorities to NU.

“The issue is that things are being done, but they are isolated from one another,” she said. “Student groups are putting on their own events while admissions has its own events. I don’t think it should be like that.”

NU increased overall enrollment by 45 students this year. Mills wrote there was “more than enough capacity in residence halls to accommodate the larger class.”

This class’s average SAT score also improved by 10 points, to 1439 from 1429. While last year’s class had a total of 85 percent of students in the top 10 percent of their class, the Fall 2009 class was higher achieving by comparison, with 90 percent of students in the top decile.

Mills wrote the higher-achieving class represents increased recognition of NU as “one of the best universities in the world.”

This class also marked 60 more “No Loan” Pledge Scholars and 124 more Pell Grant recipients than last year’s class.

McGee said the No-Loan Pledge Scholarship definitely helped to bolster minority enrollment statistics. The scholarship is awarded to students who show “the greatest financial need” and can graduate from NU without having to borrow need-based loans, according to the Undergraduate Financial Aid office. The Pell grants are a federal student financial aid program, and the awarding of the grants is based on financial information, the cost of attendance at the institution and other factors.

Mills said NU has increased financial aid by 10 percent each year for the past three years.

“I’m really proud that Northwestern stepped up and funded financial aid so generously this year,” Mills wrote. “In a year when endowments across the country took huge hits, this says a lot about Northwestern’s institutional values.”,