St. John’s continued expansion and increased financial aid, as well as a comprehensive marketing campaign designed to make the University a competitor in the national marketplace, has brought about the largest freshman class since 1987.
Numbers released last week by the University show increases across the board, most notably the 11 percent increase in new undergraduate students, from 2,689 to 2,976. New graduate enrollment also increased 30 percent from 1,098 to 1,424, the largest it has been in 10 years.
Total enrollment for both undergraduate and graduate students on all campuses rose from 18,623 to 19,288, an increase of 3.5 percent. Undergraduates make up 14,708, or 76 percent, of this number, according to Glenn Sklarin, vice president for Enrollment Management.
Following a year in which there was no significant change in overall enrollment and a decrease in the number of new students, these numbers are promising, said Sklarin.
“I think there’s a vibrancy here of growth and building new things,” he said. “I think people are attracted to that and want to be a part of it.”
Overall, new student enrollment went from 3,787 to 4,400, an increase of 16 percent, following a year in which the same number dipped 7 percent from 3,982. Sklarin attributed the increase in part to an enhanced internet-based marketing campaign.
“Probably the most significant thing last year that we’ve done is increase our awareness through the web,” he said. “More and more students look at web sites and both investigate and apply electronically, so that we’ve developed our web site more this year.”
Only seven percent of students applied to the University last year via the internet, but out of the 12,000 undergraduate freshmen that enrolled this year, 23 percent applied online. In addition to improving the St. John’s web site, a more direct online recruiting tool has been employed by the University as well.
“We’ve begun to work with e-mail marketing, [in which] we send a personalized e-mail to prospective students and respond to questions that they may have through the web,” Sklarin said. “It’s kind of an instant communication, which is important.
“We have certainly increased our visibility on the web in a variety of ways, and I think that has helped us to get the word out.”
The new enrollment numbers are especially promising considering doubts that were raised after 9-11 as to whether or not people would feel comfortable attending school in New York City.
“We were pleasantly surprised that New York still holds a real attraction for students, and families were not afraid to send their children here,” Sklarin said. “There were some students, perhaps in our area, who chose to stay closer to home.”
Increased financial aid for incoming students may also have played a part in the higher enrollment figures. In 2001-2002 $17 million was allocated in financial aid, while $22 million was allocated for this academic year.
“Our scholarship money for freshmen has grown about 30 percent over the last three years, and we certainly are giving out more financial aid than we ever have because our population has grown over this period,” Sklarin said. “The effort is to pour as much money as possible from [outside donations] into providing financial aid for students.”
Continued growth and student-oriented expansion, particularly the on-campus Residence Halls, continue to make St. John’s more attractive to students inside and outside the New York area, according to Matt Whelan, director of Admissions.
“The momentum here is fantastic,” Whelan said. “I see a lot of dollars going into student resources-the dorms, the new Dining Hall, into the new physical fitness center. When you see a university spending dollars on the students like that…that shows commitment.”
With the newly opened Donovan Hall housing 525 freshmen, the number of on-campus residents increased 23 percent from 1,787 to 2,206.
Queens Campus residency rose from 1,607 to 2,024, an increase of 26 percent. Overall, on-campus students have increased 158 percent since the Residence Halls’ inception in 1999.
While the majority of students still come from New York, the number of those enrolling from other states and countries is rising every year.
Nine percent of the total students come from 40 other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Non-residents and permanent residents from 144 different countries represent 15 percent of the student population.
While these percentages have remained relatively constant from last year, the number of non New York resident students increases in proportion with the total enrollment.
“Although the number of countries or the number of states are not necessarily increasing, the number of students coming from [them] is,” said Clover Hall, associate vice president for Institutional Research. “That can only enhance the University in terms of people just being exposed to people from other states, other races, other cultures.”
Despite the increased number of non-New York resident students, Sklarin reaffirmed the University’s commitment to the local area.
“We always want to be able to serve our population, and there’s always a balance between maintaining quality in terms of an academic profile with class and being able to serve the population you’re intended to serve,” he said. “And we work hard to be able to do both.”
Retention level increased slightly, which Sklarin attributed in part to the University Freshman Center and their focus on helping students with the transition between high school and college.
“In most cases, kids don’t reach out for support; they need someone to come and ask them,” he said. “The Freshman Center does that, and I think it’s helped a good number of our freshmen coming in to really get settled here and be able to find the right balance between academics and enjoying outside the classroom [activities] as well.”
The ethnic diversity of St. John’s stayed roughly the same, with 38 percent of students being Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian. The male/female breakdown also remained similar with 59 percent of the student body female and 41 percent male.
Overall, the numbers show significant increases in the University’s exposure level and quality appeal to prospective students.
“From an admissions standpoint, the indicators are good,” said Whelan. “Our inquiries are going up each year; our applications are going up each year.
“The quality of the class looks very strong, and we’re still providing opportunity for those who need opportunity.”