Town-University Relations Committee members reviewed the University of Connecticut’s student enrollment numbers from the past few years at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Michael Kirk, deputy chief of staff to UConn President Susan Herbst, said Mansfield Town Manager Matthew Hart asked a couple of weeks ago for information about the university’s Fall 2015 enrollment versus its Fall 2016 enrollment.
“If you look at the chart, you can see our freshman enrollment from fall 2015 to fall 2016 is essentially flat, with only about 48 more students,” Kirk said. “The goal was to keep admission flat, and we came very close to doing so.”
The university utilizes methods such as statistics and modeling to determine how many prospective students to offer enrollment to each year, Kirk said.
“We offer admission to a group of them knowing only a small number of them will actually accept it,” Kirk said. “It’s never going to be an exact number, but you can’t be in the position of taking back an offer of admission.”
Kirk also noted that the university accepted around three additional transfer students and about two fewer professional students from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016.
Mansfield Mayor Paul Shapiro inquired about how the university’s enrollment numbers account for students who successfully complete two years at a branch campus, then transfer to Storrs their junior year.
“They fall under continuing students, because they’re not new to UConn, they’re just new to the Storrs campus,” Kirk replied.
Shapiro also asked if the numbers show a trend in students not being able to complete their degrees in four years.
“I don’t know if it’s a trend…certainly some students stay beyond to complete their credits and other requirements,” Kirk answered.
Kirk said that there was a “small dip” in the number of students who applied for on-campus housing from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016.
“Keep in mind that housing is completely elastic and if we need to pack a lot of people in, we can do that,” Kirk said. “On campus, there are about 550 vacancies. You won’t find that in the fall, but you might next spring.”
According to Kirk, around 5 percent of on-campus dorms’ beds become available between fall and spring semester every year as students leave after fall semester for various reasons.
UConn Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Gilbert added that students may leave due to graduation, studying abroad and student teaching.
“You could see one student living in a three-person room assignment causing a vacancy,” Gilbert said. “It’s not easy to program because it depends on individual choice. There are vacancies scattered across the dormitory buildings, based on individual circumstance.”
Rebecca Shafer, committee member and Mansfield resident, said that the numbers which the committee received were “a little bit different” than those on the UConn fact sheets.
“The fact sheets are a snap shot,” Kirk responded. “I’d say the numbers we get from (the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness) are the end all, be all, and more accurate.”
Shapiro inquired how the university will ensure that future classes will have the resources to graduate in an appropriate amount of time.
“Our four and six-year graduation rates are really good, but when deciding on how big a class to bring in, we do think, ‘Do we have the faculty to teach them?’” Kirk replied.
Shapiro will soon invite UConn’s director of admissions to appear before town council to discuss enrollment, Kirk said.
“The basis and essence of relations between the town and the university is good will,” Kirk said. “Nothing requires the town to work with the university or the university to work with the town; we do it not because of proximity, but to be good neighbors. And part of good will is a belief that each is acting in good faith. It doesn’t mean we always agree, but it does mean we all believe we’re acting in good faith to do the right thing and to be good neighbors.”
“We’re light years away from 1997 when I first went on the town council,” committee member and former mayor Elizabeth Paterson said. “Not only was there not good communication, there was almost no communication. … We have – sometimes we wonder, but we have – made a lot of progress. The lines of communication need to be kept open, and I think that’s the most important thing we can do.”
Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.