The record student enrollments that Purdue has experienced in recent years might cause the casual observer to conclude that the increased numbers of students in the University system are the result of a favorable demographic trend or a concerted marketing effort by Purdue.
However, neither is the case. The number of students graduating from Indiana high schools is in a slight downward trend right now, and Purdue has not increased its investment in marketing. In fact, the University makes no significant expenditure for advertising. The upward trend is due to several factors, but the most important thing to understand is that enrollment growth is not a primary goal. In fact, one of our priorities and challenges in the years ahead will be to manage enrollment so that it does not become too large for our resources and infrastructure.
The fall 1999 enrollment of more 37,700 was a record for the West Lafayette campus, and that number within a few hundred students in either direction is the maximum we can enroll while sustaining the quality of programs. Meanwhile, applications for the fall 2000 class are continuing the upward trend.
There are several reasons for this remarkable interest in Purdue. These include:
The success of our students. Because they have an excellent experience and are highly competitive in the job market, Purdue's students and its recent graduates become its most effective marketers. There's no substitute for good word-of-mouth!
The quality of academic programs. In addition to the University's overall national and international reputation, programs in a wide variety of individual disciplines are known for being among the best. This information spreads within professions and communities and translates into more students making inquiries about Purdue.
Excellent service. The Office of Admissions, under the able direction of Doug Christiansen, does an outstanding job of exceeding the expectations of applicants and their parents. While the Office of Admissions usually is the first contact for prospective students, other Purdue units also play a role during the months leading up to a college decision. The residence hall system, individual Purdue schools and departments, the Division of Financial Aid, and other offices all provide excellent service that makes people feel good about the process.
The campus environment. Not all prospective students visit the campus, but our admissions staff is confident that those who do visit will be impressed by the quality and condition of facilities, the layout of the campus, and the friendly atmosphere. Purdue makes you feel welcome.
Of course, many other factors play a role in the highly personal family decision of which university a student will attend, but we feel very good right now that Purdue's healthy situation is built on a firm foundation.
One of the outcomes of this trend has been an overall increase in the academic quality of the student body. In fact, every major indicator of quality shows an improvement in recent years:
The average SAT score of new freshmen has risen by 15 points in four years.
Since 1994, the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled has tripled, and the number of valedictorians has increased by 55 percent.
At the same time, Purdue has met its land-grant commitment to remain accessible to qualified Indiana students, and it has increased the diversity of the student body.
Management of enrollment at a public institution is both an exacting science and a challenging art. I'm very proud that our staff, faculty, students, and alumni have worked so well together to make Purdue one of the most successful institutions in the nation on both fronts.
The long ordeal of the NCAA's inquiry into allegations about the Purdue men's basketball program finally came to an end in January with the decision on Purdue's appeal of findings and sanctions. Although we are not completely satisfied with the results, we are gratified that the NCAA appeals committee recommended a reduction in the university's financial penalty, which we considered to be the most serious sanction. The effect will be to decrease the financial impact from approximately $900,000 to about $80,000.
I am convinced that all aspects of this process were handled appropriately by our staff and by legal counsel, and I have complete confidence in the leadership and integrity of both Athletic Director Morgan Burke and Coach Gene Keady.
Purdue cooperated completely with the NCAA throughout this process, and we are resolved to continue to do so in the future. With the completion of the inquiry, I am eager for all our programs to move forward.