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Admission rate rises

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For the first time in its 105-year history, the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg is admitting more than 80 percent of its undergraduate applicants.

According to figures from the provost’s office about the incoming class, 81 percent of in-state students and 82 percent of out-of-state students who applied to the university were granted admission for the 2013–14 school year. That compares to 77 percent of in-state students and 80 percent of out-of-state students who were admitted last year.

The percentage has steadily risen over the last decade. For the 2007–08 academic year, UMW admitted just over 70 percent of applicants.

This year, UMW even kept the application period open through the summer for transfer students.

Carol Descak, associate provost for admission and financial aid, said that quality students wanted to apply after the original deadline.

“We have space so the response was ‘yes,’” she said.

Descak said the increase in the percentage of students admitted does not signal a decline in the quality of students attending UMW.

And attendance rates haven’t changed much. Twenty-nine percent of the in-state students who were accepted for this fall are now attending, compared with 28 percent last year. And 16 percent of admitted out-of-state students are attending, the same figure as last year.

The average GPA for an incoming freshman this fall was 3.53, compared to 3.6 last year.

The average SAT score fell slightly, with students scoring 1,112 versus 1,137 last year.

More students were accepted through early action as well, with 45 percent applying this year gaining admission compared to last year’s 41 percent. Early action allows students to be accepted to the university about three months earlier than regular applicants, in exchange for committing to attend.

Provost Jonathan Levin said ideally, he hopes to hold the percent of admitted students steady for the next class or bring down the percentage slowly.

He said reducing the portion of admitted students too quickly could risk not attracting enough students to fill the freshman class.

Over the next few years, Levin said UMW is looking to bring the admission percentage back to 70, and then see if they can move in the direction of 60 percent.

“The big picture is that we have continued to be successful in the number of students attending the university but have had to dip further into the applicant pool to do so,” he said. “We are a fairly rigorous university academically. I do worry about retention.”

Tara Corrigall, member of the board of visitors, also brought up concerns about retention at the board’s September meeting.

“Our admit rate is a very concerning trend,” she said.

Levin said that UMW retained 83 percent of freshmen last year and 85 percent the year before.

He said those are good rates, but he’d like to see them even higher.

Currently, the graduation rate at UMW is in the high 70s.

“That is good and strong, but we want to make it stronger,” Levin said.

To remedy admissions woes, the college plans to enhance search strategies with updated computer programs, include greater involvement of the university community, institute a new marketing strategy and develop a new financial aid award matrix.

At their September meeting, the UMW board of visitors heard a presentation on the marketing strategy by Malcolm Holmes, director of university marketing.

He said that the school will target high-achieving, out-of-state students and will center that search on Montgomery County, Md.

To do that, UMW advertisements will be placed in malls between Richmond and Maryland, at 10 high-traffic Metro stops and on three buses around Montgomery County and on billboards. UMW will also increase print and online advertisements to gain inquiries from possible students.

The school is also employing enrollment consulting firms and installing a more advanced software system that will find students who may inquire.

As of Sept. 11, there have been 17,181 inquiries from potential freshmen, more than 11 percent over the previous year.

On the same day last year, there were 15,454 inquiries.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976