Enrollment Numbers Soar


Enrollment of African American students has more than doubled in the past decade. Photo by Kathleen Smith Barry

The percentage of African Americans in the fall 2007 freshman class increased by 12.3 percent over the previous fall, placing Vanderbilt fourth among the highest-ranking U.S. universities, according to The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

“The progress at Vanderbilt University over the past decade has been extraordinary,” the journal observed in January. “In 1995 only 4 percent of all freshmen at Vanderbilt were black. This year the figure is 10.3 percent.”

Of the highest-ranking universities selected by U.S. News & World Report, Vanderbilt ranks fourth in percentage of black freshmen, behind Columbia University, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, overall graduation rates have held steady.

“This is the result of a directed and purposeful approach to recruiting a diverse student body,” says Douglas Christiansen, associate provost for enrollment and dean of admissions at Vanderbilt. “We set out to achieve this because it means our students benefit from a cross-section of backgrounds and outlooks, as does everyone on campus.”

In the decade between 1997 and 2007, black freshman enrollment at Vanderbilt more than doubled, from 82 to 172.

This year Vanderbilt is also seeing a dramatic increase in applications across the board. Students seeking admission to Vanderbilt’s fall 2008 freshman class rose 30 percent in one year. The university saw a comparable increase among diverse populations as well as rises in all geographic regions, with the largest increases coming from outside Vanderbilt’s own region.

“This is the most diverse, well-rounded and academically prepared applicant pool in Vanderbilt’s history,” Christiansen says. “Every measure of academic quality is up–standardized tests, class ranking, high school GPA, and the number taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and honors courses.”

This year a record of approximately 16,800 students applied to Vanderbilt (for 1,550 available freshman positions), compared to 12,911 in 2007–a 30 percent increase. The number of minority applicants increased by 28.7 percent, with the largest increase coming among Hispanics at 34 percent, followed by Asians at 29 percent, African Americans at 24 percent, and American Indians at 17 percent. Applicants from other countries and from U.S. territories rose 76 percent from 653 to 1,168.

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