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Brandeis narrows acceptance rates

Published: October 26, 2012
Section: News

Brandeis, according to a report that Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel presented to faculty on Oct. 12, is narrowing the size of its student body from the 2008 crisis, which led to a surge in population due to financial strain, but still maintaining its commitment to diversity.

“What we’re already seeing in trajectory would be explosive and somewhat stunning in the next couple of years,” Flagel said, adding that the university is poised for a change in the student body.

What the Brandeis student body will look like, however, is unclear. “I think it’s a fascinating question. I hope that we will look steadily more diverse, and I mean that on a number of levels,” he added.

The percentage of international students attending United States colleges has increased dramatically over the past decade. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 2011 claimed a 5 percent increase, the highest since 2008.

Many universities, including the University of Washington, where 18 percent of the 2016 incoming class is international, have openly admitted to accepting larger percentages of their international applicants in order to increase their university’s revenue.

“Any institution that is looking to maintain its access needs a number of students who are paying more so that other students can pay less,” Flagel said. “Whether that be international or domestic has been a way schools have explored it, but not the only way schools have explored it.”

International students do not have access to federal grants and loans, and though there are a number of programs that Brandeis offers to help fund non-U.S. residents, international students often pay a larger fraction of the full tuition bill.

“It’s not an easy challenge, with resource constraint,” said Flagel, to provide all students with their entire financial need. Part of the previous administrative plan, called CARS, called for a dramatic increase in the size of the student body in order to cover costs during the financial recession. The extra students, however, increased stress elsewhere on the campus.

Last year, Brandeis found difficulty housing the widely expanded class of 2015. According to Flagel, feedback from the student body and faculty acknowledged the desire for smaller future class size. As the university recovers financially from the 2008 financial downturn, class sizes become smaller.

After a sharp increase last year, the 2012 admissions numbers have dropped by .88 percent. The class of 2016 has about 50 fewer students than the prior year. While the number does not yet include mid-year or transfer applicants, Flagel believes the trend—a conscious decision on part of university administrators—will hold.

“I think all in all, we’ll meet all our fiscal-metric goals for the year while having less resource stress on the campus,” Flagel said. Despite the nominal increase in student body, Flagel says Brandeis has had a steady percentage of financial aid paid out to the student body. Students were receiving relatively the same level of financial, despite the increased number of those in need.

The Institute of International Education reports that foreign students in the United States contribute about $21 billion a year to the national economy. It is appealing to universities to charge international students, who value a United States education far above one in their home country, additional fees to attend. Purdue has instituted that a $1,000 surcharge will double the following year.

While Brandeis has no additional charges, the administration reports a huge increase in the number of overseas applicants. “We’ve had a huge surge,” Flagel said, which he attributes to transitional programs, which train English proficiency for students who are otherwise qualified to attend Brandeis, but are not up to the fluency standard. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve grown precipitously in both international reputation and enrollment.”

With national rates on the rise in far larger numbers—some universities report over 10 percent more overseas students—Brandeis’ international student population has increased by 8 percent since 2008. Twelve percent of the student body hails from outside the U.S.

Language fluency is one of the largest concerns with the rising population of overseas residents.

“I think that with all of our admissions decisions, our starting point should be, are we admitting students who are going to contribute to and benefit from what Brandeis has to offer?”

SAT scores are down slightly from last year, following the country’s average. Flagel, however, believes that while the Common Application will lead to a surge in application numbers, the admissions methods used to admit students will lead to a less traditional student body.

He believes that as Brandeis transfers completely to the Common Application, application rates will increase dramatically, leaving the administration in a position to choose the face of its student body.

“The question of who we select out of that pool becomes harder and harder.”