IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has put its first students on an admission waitlist after imposing a new application deadline of March 1 in hopes of keeping next fall’s freshmen class from growing too big.
UI administrators in January announced the earliest-ever deadline, as applications were pouring in and projections showed the upcoming freshmen class could top 6,000 for the first time. President Bruce Harreld over the past year has said he wants to keep the campus’ first-year class in the “sweet spot” of about 5,400.
Brent Gage, UI associate vice president for enrollment management, told The Gazette the new March 1 deadline seems to be helping meet that end — or at least get closer to it.
“Right now, we’re thinking it’s going to be about 5,500 to 5,700,” he said, adding that right-sizing the group will allow the university to offer “the experience we want to be able to provide them.”
The university in 2014 — under former President Sally Mason — ramped up its recruitment of students, particularly in-state students, after the Board of Regents pitched a “performance based funding model” that tied a majority of state appropriations to resident enrollment.
Lawmakers rejected that funding formula even as the campuses responded to the directive. But when Harreld took over the UI presidency in November 2015, he said he wanted to focus on quality not quantity and announced his intention to dial down growth.
Accordingly, the university last spring announced its May 1 application deadline would be hard and fast — where it had been more flexible with late applicants. Under this year’s new March 1 deadline, even those resident students eligible for assured entrance based on a Board of Regents admission index will be wait-listed if they come in late.
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As of Monday, eight prospective students were on the list — five resident and three non-resident students.
Late-applying students still could be considered — depending on the number of admitted students who accept. As of this week, 17,716 of the university’s 20,997 domestic applicants had been admitted. Of those admitted, 3,748 had accepted — representing a 13 percent increase over the same time last year.
Broken down, the university is reporting a 17 percent increase in resident acceptances and a 1.4 percent increase in non-resident acceptances, according to Gage.
Its 20,997 applications is 825 more than at the same point last year, which saw a total of 20,878 applications, according to Gage.
The university should have a better prediction on the size of its next freshmen class by next week — as this is the busiest time for admission response.
And while the university waits to hear back from those it’s already invited to enroll, late applicants are waiting to hear from the university, Gage said. The university will review its waitlist March 15, and then again on April 3 and April 17.
Those on the waitlist will be notified after those reviews if they will be offered admission, denied admission or remain on the waitlist. The university will cast one last review before the national May 1 decision date.
Gage said the campus still could see a 6,000-plus freshmen class in the fall.
“It’s not outside the realm of possibility,” he said. “But we would have to outperform what we are expecting on our student yield to get that high. These next few weeks are going to tell the tale.”
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The university has taken other measures to curtail enrollment. It has made it more difficult for out-of-state students to gain residency — and thus pay less — by upping the number of hours they have to work before they’re considered an Iowa resident.
The university also has nixed several non-need and non-merit-based scholarships that offered aid to students who have alumni parents, grandparents or guardians. The university initially cut those scholarships for students already offered the money but reversed that decision after significant pushback from legislators and affected students, including two students who filed lawsuits.
And President Harreld has been advocating for leverage to increase tuition — as the state continues to cut allocations to the Board of Regents’ public universities, this year reducing the UI budget base by $9.2 million. Board leadership has said they’ll support those efforts if state funds continue to flounder.