A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke
The 2003-04 academic year got off to a great start at Purdue. Nine days before the August 25 start of classes in West Lafayette, more than 4,100 new freshmen arrived on campus to participate in Boiler Gold Rush, an orientation program designed to help new students and their parents make a smooth transition to university life.
Begun in 1993 as an experiment in one of Purdue's residence halls, Boiler Gold Rush now managed by our Office of Admissions has grown from about 100 original participants to almost two-thirds of the entering undergraduate class. Another 400 students participate as volunteers, providing leadership, counseling and other support to get the newcomers off on the right foot. During six days of programming, the students participate in educational and social activities designed to teach them about all aspects of campus life everything from how to study to how to get along with people. They learn about Boilermaker traditions, the local community, opportunities for involvement with our more than 600 student organizations and university regulations.
The orientation also educates our students on some of the problems they are likely to face in their new environment, including decisions about alcohol, how to cope with homesickness and campus crime.
Follow-up data on Boiler Gold Rush shows that students who participate in the voluntary program perform at a higher academic level and are more likely to earn their degrees than those who don't go though the orientation.
After a very smooth moving-in period and the start of classes, we analyzed the fall turnout and found that the West Lafayette campus is right on target with its enrollment management plan.
With 38,847 students registered, main campus enrollment is up slightly from a year ago. However, we are continuing to make progress on our goals of lowering undergraduate enrollment slightly, increasing the number of graduate students and improving the diversity of our student body.
Graduate student enrollment increased for the sixth consecutive year, while the number of undergraduate students is down by 57 students from last fall. Because of the tense international situation, the number of international students applying to American universities decreased this year, and this affected Purdue's international enrollment. However, more American students applied to our graduate school, and this led to an enrollment increase.
Purdue has been increasing the diversity of its freshman classes in recent years, and the 2003 class has sustained that progress. African-American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American students make up about 13 percent of the first-year students this fall. From 1998 to 2001, those ethnic groups made up less than 10 percent of the freshman class.
Recruitment efforts were especially successful with African-American students this year. The number of new students in this group is up 15.85 percent on top of a 10 percent increase a year ago.
The best news of all in our enrollment efforts is that more of Indiana's top students are choosing to attend Purdue. There are 229 first-time students from Indiana who qualified for Purdue's Academic Success Awards Program, a 19 percent increase from a year ago, and 171 Indiana Resident Top Scholars, a 25 percent increase over last year.
The Academic Success Awards Program is for Indiana students who scored at least 1360 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and were in the top 5 percent of their high school class. The Indiana Resident Top Scholars program is a competitive
scholarship based on high school class rank, test scores, Indiana residency and other academic distinctions. The freshman class also includes a record 91 National Merit Scholars, setting a new record for the fourth straight year. Nineteen more high school valedictorians, a total of 202, have enrolled at Purdue this fall.
Many factors are responsible for this continuing success. Students consistently cite the quality of academic programs as their primary reason for choosing Purdue. I also want to acknowledge the work of the enrollment management team, headed by Dr. Doug Christiansen, assistant vice president for enrollment services and dean of admissions. Doug and his staff do a great job of recruiting and of processing the increasing number of applications that come to Purdue. Each admission is an individual decision that affects a student's entire life, and Doug's staff understands the importance of their work. I congratulate them on another successful effort!
Enrollment figures for Purdue's statewide system are not final yet, but we are estimating a total of about 69,000 students a slight increase over last year.