First-year enrollment up in 6 of 7 colleges

Most Rhode Island colleges and universities welcomed a larger freshman class to their campuses this year.

All but one of the seven colleges that reported their freshmen enrollment numbers showed increases, including a 17 percent jump at Bryant College. In contrast the University of Rhode Island and Providence College reported increases of less than 1 percent.

“Most colleges are experiencing growth in their freshman class because there are larger high school graduating classes these days,” said Janet Proulx, spokesperson for Bryant College. “We expect this demographic trend to continue for a few more years.”

Proulx said such a dramatic increase at Bryant could also be attributed to a new financial services major at the school, a number of minors added and the first season of Bryant football.

- Advertisement -

The average hike in freshmen enrollment for the other schools was 4.6 percent, while the average increase in tuition was 4 percent.

Salve Regina University reported the only decrease in freshmen students, but even then it followed an explosion in enrollment last year.

“Last year we had a 22-percent increase that just snuck up on us. It created a bit of a housing crunch for us,” said Laura E. McPhie, Salve’s dean of enrollment. “So this year we were a little cautious in recruitment.”

McPhie said this year’s drop — still a 15 percent increase over 1996 numbers — gave the school a chance to recover from the housing problems of last fall.

“Finding housing in Newport isn’t easy. It involved a couple of kids staying at the Viking (Hotel) for a week. I’m sure they enjoyed the HBO and room service,” McPhie said.

McPhie credited the school’s increases last year with a wider, national recruitment effort.

Kenneth F. DiSaia, dean of admissions at Johnson & Wales University, said its Providence campus had a 5 percent increase, rebounding from two years of declining freshman enrollment.

He said the largest increase is within the school’s college of business. The addition of the schools of global management and creative marketing was a factor in this year’s increases, DiSaia said.

He added that every college located in the Providence area should experience growth because of the improvements the city has made.

“When we bring people on tours showing them the location of the new ice rink and the mall, and the fact that the city hosts the X Games, it tells them that this is a happening city,” he said. “That is one of the major reasons they select a college.”

With increases in the student body, schools have had to respond with more resources.

“We added four new full-time faculty and a number of adjunct professors to meet the needs of this class,” said Proulx of Bryant College. “It is vital that we continue to keep the class sizes small.”

Keeping the price in line is also helpful.

Johnson & Wales freshman are paying 7 percent more than the sophomore class in front of them, but they won’t be seeing another increase until they graduate.

The university decided this year to freeze tuition for each class that enters during their four years at the school.

“In this era of increasing difficulty in financing a college education, it is our belief that a tuition freezestrongly supports our goal to provide our students with a more affordable education,” said William McArdle, vice president of financial services at the school.

He estimates that the freeze will save students up to $4,000 over the four-year period.

Johnson & Wales had the highest increase of the nine Rhode Island colleges to respond to the survey. The schools with the lowest increases were Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island at 2.5 percent each, and the New England Institute of Technology at 1 percent.

Brown University, one of the nation’s most expensive schools, is making an effort to slow down its tuition increases. While tuition continued to increase — by 4.5 percent — it was the lowest percentage increase at the Ivy League school in 30 years.

Mark Nickel, a Brown spokesman, said a student’s ability to meet the tuition — now at $23,616 — has been a major concern.

“We are trying to hold the line, like all colleges and universities are doing,” he said.

He added that in 1991 the school implemented a policy that required the same percentage increases made to tuition be made to the financial aid budget.

No posts to display