Diversity climbs in first-year applicant pool
While ethnic and geographic diversity in incoming first-year classes has steadily risen in the past few years, distribution among the University’s majors has swayed largely toward social sciences, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel announced during Friday’s faculty meeting.
Flagel noted that these statistics will remain unofficial for another week and a half, in accordance with the federal standard, but that these preliminary numbers offer a good indication of the University’s current state of enrollment.
Overall, Flagel said, enrollment has been “robust,” trending slightly toward growth while remaining within the University’s capacity for resources and space.
The University is slowly becoming more ethnically diverse, with 8 percent of the University now African American and 7 percent now Latino.
The number of prospective students of color has also gone up, with the University reaching out to 49,704 prospects in 2016, up from 34,064 prospects in 2014. In return, 8,545 prospective students of color made admission inquiries into the University in 2016, compared to only 4,604 inquiries in 2014, and 1,996 applied, compared to only 1,509 in 2014. Of those, 624 were admitted and 137 enrolled, compared to the 454 students of color admitted in 2014 and the 105 who enrolled the same year.
Prof. Anita Hill (Heller) asked Flagel about the University’s outreach to Native Americans. She expressed concern that the University’s enrollment numbers for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives were low, with this minority representing only one percent of the first-year class in 2009 — 5 students — and less than one percent in 2016 — 1 student.
“There’s certainly a lot of areas where we have to continue to develop and test,” Flagel said. “I will say that I have seen greater success in trajectories at my prior institutions than I have seen here.”
He went on to explain that one of the first conversations he had upon coming to Brandeis was about the University’s reputation and public image around the world.
“Just in terms of … what high schools we visit and how we do outreach in communities, we were very focused … for several years on suburban and elite private school visits,” Flagel said. “We have made a very concerted effort to diversify the schools that we work with.” He cited the Students Exploring and Embracing Diversity program and expressed hope that the new chief diversity officer will move diversity outreach forward.
Geographically, the University’s enrollment has also become more diverse over the past few years, with only 58 percent of students in the class of 2020 from New England and the Mid Atlantic, compared to 70 percent a few years ago. On the other hand, the first-year class is only 17 percent international students, bringing the percentage of international undergraduate students down from 20 percent in the fall of 2015 to 19 percent now. The majority of the University’s international students are from China.
Flagel explained that the gradual rise in the number of students from China was the unintended result of a dramatically rising yield of Chinese students in recent years.
A total of 5,733 students are currently enrolled at the University, compared to the 5,333 in 2007. The first-year class of 2016 is comprised of 843 students, compared to 797 students in 2009.
Along with the drop in the undergraduate yield rate, undergraduate admissions have also fallen, with a 2016 acceptance rate of 33.5 percent (from 11,351 applications), compared with a 42.7 percent acceptance rate in 2009 (from 6,766 applications).
While Flagel explained that he does not like to use SAT scores to measure a class of first-years, he asserted that the SAT range for incoming first-years has held steady.
Flagel also presented data on which fields students are majoring in, aggregated by University registrar Mark Hewitt.
According to Flagel, 2,099 University undergraduates are majoring in the social sciences — including Health: Science, Society and Policy and Business — with 932 majoring in the sciences, 272 majoring in the humanities and 130 majoring in creative arts. He noted that the data double- or triple-counts students with multiple majors.
While the number of students majoring in the sciences has trended slightly upward, Flagel explained that the University is working to use fellowships and merit scholarships to change these trend lines by attracting applicants to the sciences and creative arts especially. “In each area, it’s thinking creatively about how we can do things with the limited bandwidth we have here at Brandeis in a way that will help us create the kind of enrollment that we all like to see,” Flagel explained.
A previous version of this article inverted the first-year yield rates for 2009 and 2016.