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Saint Mary’s welcomes accomplished freshman class

Liz Harter | Friday, August 22, 2008

The incoming freshman class at Saint Mary’s has something to brag about this year.

While the 460 students who will enroll at the College this week don’t measure up numerically to the 481 students in the class of 2011 – the largest incoming class in 17 years – they are one of the most academically talented classes in the history of the College.

“This is always a sensitive issue, but this year’s class is one of the best from an academic perspective,” said vice president for enrollment management Dan Meyer. “Other classes don’t like to hear this because of how it reflects on their accomplishments.”

The applicant pool increased this year to 1,422 – a 10.9 percent increase from the previous year’s pool. More than 60 percent of the incoming students had an average high school GPA of 3.61 or higher with 64 students maintaining a perfect 4.0 throughout their entire high school career.

The larger class sizes of the past two years are a part of College president Carol Ann Mooney’s initiative to increase enrollment and boost Saint Mary’s national recognition.

The College was recently named one of the best colleges in the Midwest by the Princeton Review for the sixth year in a row and ranked 104 out of the 248 Best Liberal Arts Colleges by the U.S. News and World Report.

Mooney first addressed this long-term plan in her inaugural address in January 2005. In that speech, she said stabilizing enrollment was her “top priority.” She took steps toward realizing that goal by creating the position of Vice President for Enrollment Management.

The College’s efforts to stabilize enrollment has financial relevance, as well. In 2005, Saint Mary’s faced a $1.5 million budget deficit due to small classes and fewer tuition dollars.

“By hitting the [enrollment] mark at 1,600 or 1,700,” Meyer said in an interview last year, “we are better equipped to deal with that problem.”

Meanwhile, Mooney has started an initiative to double the College endowment fund, which would reduce dependence on enrollment for financial stability.

Enrolling freshman come from 36 states and include five international students from China, Honduras, Myanmar, Japan and Vietnam, as well as five U.S. students who were living abroad in Switzerland, Kuwait, Korea, Bolivia and Italy.

The class of 2012 also saw an increase in the number of diverse students to 55 from last year’s 47 with the largest increase seen among Pacific Asian Islanders with 13 students up from last year’s six.

The number of black students increased to six from last year’s five and the number of Hispanic students stayed consistent at 33, Meyer said.

“Much of this change reflects the College’s efforts to reach out to high schools with larger diversity numbers and to get more diversity on campus,” he said.

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