USA Today names the UI as a university where ‘applications are on the rise’

Although the UI has reportedly seen an increase in applications, administration predicts there will not be an increase in enrollment.


Wyatt Dlouhy

The Old Capitol building is seen in 2018.

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

According to an article published by USA Today, the UI is number 88 of 100 U.S. schools where “applications are on the rise.” The study assessed each institution’s five-year increase in applications, total undergraduate enrollment, costs, and more.

Although the UI has seen a five-year increase of 50.5 percent in undergraduate applications, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Brent Gage said this may have little to do with the UI and more to do with a culture of convenience.

“First and foremost, students are applying more places than they ever have before,” Gage said. “The average student applies to as many as seven schools.”

Gage linked this pattern to students’ tendency to apply to safety schools over more selective institutions. Other factors include the creation of the Common Application and students’ ability to assess how many scholarships potential schools may offer.

“When I sit down with my peers at other Big 10 institutions, they are in the same boat we are,” Gage said. “We have to be efficient, because applications don’t mean what they used to.”

Gage said several students who apply to the UI do not intend to accept their admission.

“We have a lot of students who have applied but never visit our campus, so their likelihood of enrollment is not good,” Gage said. “They’re basically just saving a place in line.”

Because the UI is attempting to not invest in class size but rather in education quality, Gage emphasized that an increase in applications will not necessarily mean an increase in enrollment.

“We had to reengineer the machine,” Gage said. “This fall, we got exactly the class we wanted with just over 4800 freshman. It was the most academically talented class we’ve ever enrolled in the history of the university.”

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The admissions, enrollment, and financial aid offices work in tandem to build the UI’s future population and education, which means proactively managing enrollment.

The primary goal of the university is to create graduates, not freshmen, Gage said. This means using predictive modeling to see who is interested in attending the UI for the long haul.

“There’s a reason student retention is the most researched topic in higher education,” Academic Support and Retention (ASR) Director Mirra Anson said. “We have to really think about our students and what they need.”

The ASR provides programs to help facilitate undergraduate success, such as simple learning instruction.

“We don’t want students to fall through the cracks,” Anson said. “Student care needs to come first, and retention will follow.”

Anson referenced the tendency of students to start asking questions about their academic, personal, and financial experience as early as week three of their first semester.

One of the many UI retention functions is Orientation Services, which oversees transition programs that encourage academic success.

“We introduce university expectations and responsibilities to students,” UI Orientation Services Director Tina Arthur said. “We know if they get connected and feel comfortable they’re more likely to stay.”

Arthur said that students who make connections to their major and work on campus are more likely to commit and continue their degree.

“Orientation and admissions can’t function without each other,” Arthur said. “We consistently partner so that what is being promised to students is actually what they are experiencing.”