UVM’s popularity makes admissions more selective

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(Note: The text below reflects the corrected number of Vermont students who applied to UVM in 2006. There were 2,160 Vermont applications.)

(Host) Vermonters are finding it harder to be admitted into the University of Vermont these days. A record number of applications have made the school much more competitive – for in-state and out-of-state students.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Thousands of Vermont high school seniors got a letter in the mail this month from the University of Vermont. For many, the envelopes contained disappointing news.

(Jane Krasnow) “Students who might have been on the cusp in previous years really aren’t getting in this year.”

(Dillon) Jane Krasnow is a college counselor at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg.

UVM received almost 18,000 applications this year, compared to about 11,000 last year. So it was forced to reject many more students. This year the rejection rate was about 36 percent. A year ago, the school turned away about 20 percent.

(Krasnow) “In the past UVM’s been great about believing in students who just needed a little bit more time to show what they could do, and they’ve taken those students. And those students have done really well there. But this year, they just didn’t have the space.”

(Dillon) In some ways, the school is feeling the effects of its own success. A new honors college, a winning basketball team last year, and favorable reviews in college guides have generated intense interest in the Burlington campus. UVM President Daniel Fogel:

(Fogel) “So it got tougher. But it was a combination of two things – we had to reduce the size of the entering class a little bit so our capacity and our building of capacity didn’t fall behind our enrollment growth, and we had a lot more applications.”

(Dillon) Vermonters make up about 27 percent of the incoming class. That number goes up to about 38 percent over four years, as in-state students transfer to the school. Out-of-state students pay higher tuition. And Fogel says the out-of-staters subsidize the Vermont kids.

(Fogel) “We keep Vermont tuition artificially low to make sure that Vermonters have access to the university regardless of their ability to pay. So when you take our tuition, less financial aid, our Vermont students pay about a third of the cost of their education.”

(Dillon) But of about 2,160 Vermonters who applied this year, almost 800 were rejected. That bothers Elizabeth Howard from Norwich. She describes herself a concerned taxpayer, and she questions whether the state’s flagship university is serving enough Vermonters.

Howard began crunching the admission numbers after a family member was turned down by UVM.

(Howard) “Last year only 336 were rejected, and this year 780 are rejected. And in that case, it appears that the popularity nationally is not to the benefit [but] rather to the detriment of our children. And I don’t see how that’s in the interest of Vermont taxpayers.”

(Dillon) UVM President Fogel doesn’t see it that way. He says the state benefits as UVM gets stronger.

(Fogel) “This is how we serve Vermont students, and this is how we serve the state of Vermont. We are building the capacity of the state of Vermont to develop its human capital to the highest levels to ensure its economic and social well-being. And the fact that the bar is rising is something I think Vermonters take great pride in.”

(Dillon) College counselors say Vermont students who were once able to count on UVM as their “safety,” or back-up school, may not have that option. But they say UVM generously accepts many transfer students, including those enrolled in its continuing education program.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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