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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Admit rate climbs, more students on campus

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: Front Page

Brandeis this year saw its acceptance rate increase and then matriculation rate yield of those accepted students fall compared to last year’s class, Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel announced at Thursday’s faculty meeting as part of the annual presentation on the statistics for the incoming class.

The 39.99 percent acceptance rate is up from last year’s 37.44 and our yield dropped below a quarter of all students offered admission.

But Flagel explained that the news was tempered by the fact that this is among the most highly-qualified classes Brandeis has seen when taking GPA, SAT score and high school class rank comparisons.

“Triangulating the data—while this is one of the largest classes Brandeis has ever had—yet it is also one of the highest-caliber classes ever enrolled,” Flagel said.

He also said that there must be something a bit wrong about how “we are externally judged by how many people we deny.”

“Instead, we got better applicants and so we got a slightly higher acceptance rate,” Flagel added, “even if it makes us looks strange in U.S. News—one of the reasons U.S. News’ [with its famed rankings] is flawed.”

Indeed, both in terms of all of these statistics, Brandeis’ mean SAT scores and GPA increased this year, belying the negative news from the admit rate.

Flagel joked that the statistic was “about as statistically significant [to what constitutes high-profile applicants] as shoe size.”

“But,” he added, “it is one way we are looked at in rankings.”

He said that clearly Brandeis can be known for its excellence beyond just how many students we reject.

The class of 2015 is the third and latest class in the four-year financial plan of the university to increase the size of the student population. The class of 2015 contains 858 first-years, up from 756 last year and 717 the year before.

The total target after next year will be about 3,600 to 3,700 undergraduates, Flagel and Fran Drolette, the university’s chief financial officer, said.

Several professors had questions about the statistics, and the admissions report made it one of the most lively faculty meetings in months.

Philosophy chair Professor Jerry Samet asked if there was a reason for the acceptance rate being “39.99 percent … Is 40 a bad number to have or did it really happen to come out to exactly three-nine-point-nine-nine?” He said this to much laughter.

Flagel said that it truly did come out that way, but admitted jocularly, “Yes, and I’m going to try my hardest to make sure it doesn’t get to 40, it’ll be 39.99999.” He added seriously that while a higher number is bad news for rankings, “it’s not worrisome unless it continues in the wrong direction.”

“But it’s also very unusual to have a class with that acceptance rate with the caliber of class we have,” Flagel said.

Another professor asked if the negative news in acceptance rate and yield has anything to do with the reduction in merit aid in favor of need-based financial aid, and Flagel said that there was some evidence that it did. But also, the class of 2015 was still so high-caliber after all, so Brandeis’ total academic competitiveness increased rather than decreased.

When the conversation turned to the number of students at Brandeis who considered the university their “top choice,” Flagel said that the assumed low percentage was something that needed to be combated but was confident that it could be.

He said that Brandeis needs to have “the steak and the sizzle,” referring both to the attractive marketing and to the branding campaign to show students accurately what is great about the university—the sizzle—and the steak, which is the actual value of Brandeis—which no one the room disputed.

“We will succeed,” Flagel said, adding that the numbers will get better in the future and “I am not arrogant, but I am very confident.”