College Enrollment Soars Despite Summer Melt

By Staff
September 21, 2009

Colleges and universities across the country are experiencing an unexpected flood of students, in some cases significantly more than were predicted would enroll.

"It's good news in the sense that if we couldn't hit our target, this is better than being way below it," said Bill Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Johns Hopkins University, who was quoted in the Baltimore Sun. "It's a good problem to have."

Anticipating that many families would not be able to afford Hopkins' hefty $54,500 annual price tag, the school projected an incoming freshman class of 1,235, taking into account that many students would likely be lost to "summer melt" and not show up on the first day of classes. Yet admission officers were in for a surprise: Hopkins is now coping with 1,350 first-year students. As a result, university officials reopened a defunct residence hall, leased a nearby inn and created new sections of some math and science courses.

"This was, in my 10 years working in the public sector, one of the most difficult years to project enrollment," said Brian Hazlett, director of admissions at Towson University, where the freshman class is about 1 percent larger than expected.

Virginia's University of Richmond's student newspaper, The Collegian, reports that the school's freshman class has 182 more members than last year and is the largest the university has ever seen. Officials expected a 7 percent summer melt this year, but only saw a 5.8 percent rate, and after receiving deposits from about 100 more students than expected. All together, there are 926 students in the freshman class--significantly more than the 805 anticipated.

"It was a strong statement from families that an education at the University of Richmond has value," said Nanci Tessier, vice president for enrollment management.

The Philadelphia Inquirer [from an article originally located at] reports that colleges concerned about greater summer melt than usual made efforts to connect with incoming freshmen. Widener University used Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch, Villanova University increased its phone calls, and St. Joseph's University held campus-wide staff meetings aimed at making sure that accepted freshmen enrolled.

At La Salle University, where summer melt was as high as 9 percent, the freshman class was still its largest ever because the university made a push for more commuter students. As a result, the school now has 956 freshmen.

All in all, noted the Inquirer, "What's known in admission circles as 'summer melt' proved to be no more than a drip or two."

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