By Andrew Izzo
The freshman class of 2017 is unique in the institution’s history.
“Demographically, this is the most diverse class we’ve ever had,” said Associate Vice President of Admission Shannon Carr. Carr goes on to say that this class is also very diverse in terms of ideology and geography. This includes a substantially higher number of local Tacoma residents.
This increase in local students is due to the new University program that works with the Tacoma Public Schools, Carr says. This program provides scholarships to high-achieving Tacoma Public High School Graduates.
“This is a commitment to students coming out of Tacoma public schools,” Carr said, “that seeks to provide a funding source back to them to make their time at Puget Sound more attainable.”
Another notable feature about this year’s freshman class is its size. At 597 students, it is roughly a hundred students shy of last year. While the financial impact of this is significant to the University, Carr says that this will not have an immediate impact on the University, or the students.
“As a university, we’ve been incredibly thoughtful and planful in the amount of money we have set aside in reserves to manage this,” Carr said.
“There is an active and very strong focus on making sure that we increase our enrollment in the upcoming year,” Carr said. Carr also says that the small size of this year’s class will not lead to significant cuts or cost increases.
If a trend of lower enrollment continues, there is a chance that there would be changes to costs in over substantial time. “That’s a decision that is certainly made by the executive administration,” Carr said, “such as the president, the board and the executive leadership of the institution.”
“I have heard a strong commitment from the executive leadership of the institution to really contain costs as much as possible for students,” Carr reported. This is part of the national dialogue, as well as voices from the student body to keep higher education affordable for as many people as possible.
There is also talk, Carr says, of supporting scholarship programs for students as way to offset any potential tuition increases. Carr does emphasize that there is no current plan to increase tuition prices for the students.
Carr stated that the Admissions department is looking to broaden the pool of people looking at the school. This means increasing visibility of the University to prospective students on the national stage, as most of the enrollment comes from the Western half of the United States. Increasing enrollment from the East Coast and the South is becoming a priority, as well as attracting more transfer students.
“We’re thinking a lot about our international student populations,” Carr says “and how we might be able to attract and retain international students.” This increases both diversity and enrollment numbers.
The student side of admissions is also a factor that may help in boosting enrollment for the coming year. Students at the University work as tour guides, overnight hosts, and answer questions in one-on-one chats with prospective students and parents.
Carr says there are about 70 students that work with admissions. This makes Puget Sound’s student arm of enrollment fairly robust when compared to other colleges, as this number is nearly double the number that worked for Oregon State’ admission department when Carr was there last year.
“I think we do a really good job of making sure our prospective students and families get to actually get to interact with students here,” Carr said.