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Quality of students grows along with enrollment

By : Anita Doll

Freshmen Gene Donovan, undecided, and Bryan Ellis, an environmental sciences major, spend time studying at the University Union. The two are part of this year’s freshmen class, which is setting a new standard for quality.
Last fall’s entering class continued to set new standards of quality, bringing with them grade point averages and standardized test scores that outpace their predecessors.

For the first time, entering freshmen had an average SAT of 1250, up sharply from last year’s average of 1235. According to the College Board, only 15 percent of the students in the nation achieve a score of 1250 or above on their SAT.

The improvement is even more striking over five years when average test scores rose more than 40 points from 1208. Transfers maintained high quality with 80 percent bringing a GPA of 3.0 or better.

“The improvement is even more dramatic when you factor in the growth in enrollment during those five years,” said Sandra Starke, vice provost for enrollment man-agement. “The number of freshmen and transfer students we enroll each year has grown by 400 students over the last five years.”

The mid-range for SAT scores for Bing-hamton students also rose from 1110-1310 for 2003 to 1170-1340 for 2004.

While Binghamton has been successful in attracting stronger students, it is oper-ating in a very competitive environment, Starke said. “Surprisingly to most people, our stiffest competition comes from private schools. The private colleges make up about 65 percent of the competition and public flagships from other states make up an additional 17 percent of the competition.”

Provost Mary Ann Swain, who oversees undergraduate and graduate admissions efforts, said that the Binghamton advantage in the competition has been the University’s growing reputation.

“The quality of both academic programs and out-of-class experiences attract excellent students,” Swain said. “Our attempts also to make our story known are paying off. More students hear about what we have to offer, look at us seriously and come.”  

A key factor in the growth has been transfer students. Last fall, the 768 transfer students made up one-third of all new admissions. Five years ago, they accounted for 28 percent of the incoming class. Keeping a healthy transfer popu-lation is important to the University and its mission, according to Swain.

“We are a public university committed to the notion that talented students of whatever economic means should have access to the quality that is a Binghamton education,” she said. “For some students that means beginning at a community college and living at home. We also offer a broader range of programs than some four-year colleges. Students whose interests change should be able to follow those interests to Binghamton University.”

Starke said transfer students require specialized support so that they can successfully make the academic transition, find housing and make friends.

“Many people have the misconception that all transfer students are older, more experienced and need less support,” she said. “That is simply not the case. We are seeing many students who transfer in as second-semester freshmen or as sophomores. For many, it’s the first time away from home and on their own.”

A number of campus groups are focusing on the needs of transfer students, including a new Retention Task Force and the Orientation Team.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08