University of Wisconsin undergraduate admissions for the fall semester have decreased for the first time in five years.
According to Registrar Joanne Berg, the university saw a total application decrease of just over 1,100.
“We have 24,000 applications, and last year we had a little over 25,000,” Berg added. “The numbers aren’t a big change but … the school would like to know why the decrease is happening.”
Though overall applications decreased, the only decrease came from in-state students. Out of state applications, on the other hand, increased by 211, which Berg said is a very rare occurrence.
Though Berg said the school has no definitive answer as to why these numbers have occurred, she made several speculations.
“One guess is that out of state families want to send their students to a good Big Ten school, and we have a relatively low tuition,” Berg said.
Berg added students may be applying to fewer schools and an increase in application price from $39 to $44 may have turned off some potential applicants.
“Economically, the whole country is experiencing the strange phenomenon — we don’t know if it’s the economy or less students applying” Berg said. “And we won’t be able to understand why until next fall when we find out where people are going instead.”
Berg added UW officials will be doing research and talking to colleagues at colleges across the county to help understand the cause of the overall decline in applications.
Though applications have decreased, Berg noted they have not seen a decrease in the quality of submitted applications, even in comparison to last year’s record high number of applicants.
The university is also targeting to admit the same size class as years past.
“What we do know is that we will have a freshman class, and it will be full of great students,” Berg said.
Mary Gulbrandsen, executive director for the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars, agreed, though there are likely many reasons for a decline in enrollments, some probably related to the country’s current economic climate.
Gulbrandsen added a follow up from students who did and did not apply to the school is a necessary step in acquiring information about the decline.
“Maybe the application price has something to do with it, or maybe students didn’t apply to as many schools this year,” Gulbrandsen said “Without talking to students and looking into it more we won’t know for sure.”
Gulbrandsen added she hopes the trend will reverse if applications continue to decrease in the spring semester and an increase in financial aid is granted in Gov. Jim Doyle’s upcoming budget proposal.
“I think there are so many factors … but I would hope it would,” Gulbrandsen said. “I don’t think it’s anything to panic about, there are just a million different things they are going to have to look at.”