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UO applications skyrocketing.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

The University of Oregon has been flooded with a record number of applications this year, even as it approaches both the financial and physical limit on the number of students it can enroll.

More than 22,000 high school students submitted applications to the UO this spring, a record number and a 22 percent increase over last year. Since 2000, the number of students applying to the university has skyrocketed by 273 percent.

"We've had incredible interest in the University of Oregon," said Roger Thompson, vice provost for enrollment management. "We're as busy as we've ever been, and that's a great thing. It's the kind of problem you want to have."

In part, the increase is due to changes in the college application landscape. More students are applying for college, and each student applies to more universities on average than in the past, so the total number of college applications being filed is up markedly.

It's important to note, however, that the number of students who apply to the UO is only loosely related to the number who actually enroll. Many high school students not only apply to a half-dozen or more colleges, they often are admitted to more than one and don't decide which they will attend until summer.

Last year, for example, 18,065 people applied to the UO and 14,588 - 81 percent - were admitted. Of those admitted, 3,925 - or about 27 percent - actually enrolled and became Ducks.

Admission is essentially an offer to enroll. Most universities admit many more students than they actually could accommodate because they know many will end up choosing another school or not enroll at all.

But the UO numbers still stand out. The university receives substantially more freshman applications than any other state university in Oregon and in recent years has increasingly outdistanced other schools, according to figures from the Oregon University System.

But almost all of the growth in applications has come from out of state. Nonresident applications at the UO grew to 13,269 last year, up 315 percent from 4,185 in 2000.

Applications from Oregon residents, on the other hand, totaled 4,796 last year, up 24 percent from 3,870 in 2000.

But despite the flood of applications, the university has little room to increase the size of its 2011 freshman class. Thompson said the incoming class will be about 4,000 students, about the same as in recent years.

Total enrollment at the UO was 23,389 last year, and university officials have set 24,500 as the maximum the campus can accommodate without substantial increases in both its budget and facilities. With state funding again down for another two-year budget period, and with legislators more reluctant than ever to use the state's bonding authority for university buildings, the UO's ability to raise enrollment in the near term appears limited.

What that means for applicants is that it could grow more difficult to get into the UO. The university already requires a 3.4 grade point average and 16 subject units for automatic admission, the highest requirements among state schools.

With freshman enrollment being held stable as applications increase, it means that the percentage of students being admitted is dropping. Between 70 and 75 percent of applicants are expected to be admitted this year, down from 90 percent in 2005.

But it's not clear how much practical effect that will have, especially among Oregon applicants. Nearly all in-state applicants with at least a 3.0 GPA and a strong high school course schedule get admitted to the UO after their applications go through additional review.

That's not the case with nonresident applicants, who enroll at the UO at a far lower rate. Only 14 percent of the nonresident students who applied to the UO last year ultimately enrolled at the school.

Still, competition for the available spaces is growing. Not only are more students applying, the applicants have better grades than at any time in the past.

High school GPAs for entering freshmen have been on the rise for more than a decade. Last year's incoming class had an average GPA of 3.51, up from 3.39 in 2000. During that same span, the number of new students who graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school class rose to 93 percent from 83 percent.

Thompson said the applicant pool for 2011 continues the trend for rising academic achievement.

"The applicant pool was not only larger but also stronger in terms of academic measurement than what we had in the past," he said. "From our standpoint it was the type of year, from an application perspective, that is just fantastic."

But it doesn't appear that the UO is turning down many qualified in-state applicants. Tammy Humbert, a guidance counselor at North Eugene High School, said she hasn't noticed much difference in the number of students who get admitted to the UO.

"All of my kids that applied got in," she said.

Shannon Roseta, a counselor at Churchill High, said she hasn't seen any increase in the number of students who are denied admission or placed on the wait list. But both she and Humbert said it's clear that students have to clear a higher academic hurdle if they expect to enroll at the university.

That sometimes comes as a surprise to local students who assume there's a place for them at the UO.

"I do know that some kids, particularly in Eugene, are shocked," Roseta said. "I think there's a realization among students that the standard is going up and it isn't quite as easy as they think it is."
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Title Annotation:Local News; A record number of more than 22,000 high school students apply this spring, straining the university's limits
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 26, 2011
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