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Freshmen class size down from past years, still high

There’s a good reason for the lines probably snaking around dining halls, the bookstore and the ticket booth at athletic events.

Blame the new guys and girls — freshmen have enrolled in historically high numbers for the third straight year at the University.

About 3,800 first-year students arrived on campus this week, down from 3,899 last year and 3,935 in 2010, according to preliminary data compiled by the University’s admissions office. Enrollment data isn’t official until 15 days after classes begin.

Based on those numbers, the Class of 2016 will most likely be the fourth-largest class in University history, said Gary Swegan, assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions.

To Swegan, the two-year enrollment decline isn’t alarming — it’s desired.

Starting this year, the office aimed to attract higher-achieving students by implementing stricter admission standards and reallocating scholarships. The process officially starts for Fall 2013 recruitment and will most likely reduce class sizes by a few hundred students in three to four years.

In years past — when first-year enrollment bottomed out at 3,200 in 2009 — the admissions office primarily concentrated on increasing class sizes, not prioritizing educational standards.

“We invested in recruitment and it’s paid off handsomely, so now we’re in a good position to start to shape the class’ academic profile,” Swegan said. “The very lowest groups who may have been enrolled in previous years will no longer be offered admission if they don’t improve their credentials.”

Freshmen characteristics are nearly identical to last year’s high-achieving group, with 15 percent out-of-state students and about 22 percent students of color. Academic characteristics are also on par with last year’s class, with an anticipated high school GPA of 3.26 and an anticipated composite ACT score of 22.

The group will contain the highest number of Michigan freshmen in University history, with about 8 percent of the class, or 300 students, coming from Ohio’s northern neighbor.

Freshman Ivory Price, from Southfield, Mich., said she isn’t surprised by a record-breaking group from the Mitten State. The international studies major said at least 40 seniors from her high school in Detroit were University-bound.

“There’s a lot of recruitment in the area and it keeps increasing as the years go,” Price said. “A lot of students from Michigan go to BGSU because it’s far enough from home, but not too far, and even though there’s a large student population, everything is really personalized.”

To maintain its personalized appeal, this year the University revamped its student orientation, advising and registration program.

Dubbed “SOAR,” the idea is to help students achieve academic success through career development, leadership, engagement and personal and physical responsibility, said Andy Alt, director of New Student Orientation and First Year Programs.

“We really wanted to focus on equipping students practically — not just telling them how to be successful, but actually making it happen,” Alt said. “A new group of freshmen with a new set of goals, expectations and hopes creates excitement for the entire campus.”

The Office of Admissions is already brimming with excitement for next year’s newcomers, Swegan said.

More than 1,100 students submitted fall freshmen applications as of last Friday, he said. This time last year, the number was a little more than 1,000.

But to Swegan, the most important figures for the Class of 2017 will reflect its quality, not its quantity.

“Our goal next year is to have the best freshman class based on grades and test scores,” Swegan said. “We’ve established ourselves in primary and secondary markets and now it’s easier to elevate our academic profile each year going forward.”

BY THE NUMBERS: Class of 2016

3,800: first-year students enrolled at the University

3.26: average GPA

15 percent: first-year students from out-of-state

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