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Virginia tech freshman class becoming more competitive; Rise in grades and test scores noted


BLACKSBURG, Va., May 10, 2004 – Admission to Virginia Tech continues to become more competitive as applicants report higher grade point averages and test scores than previous years. The incoming class of 4,975 students has an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.68 and SAT 1203, up from 3.60 GPA and 1197 SAT in 2003.

"We continue to be pleased at the quality of freshmen wanting to become Hokies," said Roberta Minish, interim director of undergraduate admissions. There were 17,764 freshman applications for academic year 2004-05, down a fraction of a percent over last year's total of 17,841. Application levels remain equivalent to recent all time highs of slightly more than 18,000. Officials attribute the slight decrease to students "self-selecting" themselves out of Virginia Tech's applicant pool. "Increasingly, we seldom see applications from students with less than a 3.0 GPA," said Minish

Virginia Tech Admissions continues to receive record numbers of applications submitted online through the website. 14,198 -- 80 percent of the total applications -- were processed from online submissions.

David Ford, vice provost for academic affairs, credits the more competitive student interest in Virginia Tech to an important factor. "Students increasingly recognize the quality of our programs and our ability to help them find jobs or move on to graduate school. Our goal to become a top 30 university is attracting a higher caliber of student - students who want the prestige of a Virginia Tech education," said Ford. Virginia Tech was ranked 32nd among top national public institutions according to U.S. News & World Report.

University officials are disappointed that it appears that overall minority enrollment will drop from 16.3 percent to 12.7 percent of the entering class. Applications from Hispanic students dropped by 9 percent and from African Americans by 12 percent from the previous year.

"We are very disappointed to see a decrease in minority enrollment at a time when we aspire to be a more diverse campus. We will be looking critically at all the factors that contributed to this decrease and we must commit ourselves to find solutions. Although the university's narrowly-tailored, holistic admissions process was not directly affected by the recent legal reviews, the controversy over affirmative action would be expected to have an impact in this particular admissions cycle," said Mark McNamee, university provost.

McNamee cited additional challenges that must be addressed in order to improve campus diversity. "We must increase the yield of the students who accept our offer of admission among minorities, which is routinely about 10 percent less than for Caucasians. Like many universities, the admissions office was very cautious in interpreting guidance from the state as well as the implications of the Michigan court case," McNamee said. Other factors cited for the decline in minority applications and enrollment include: elimination of the application fee waiver for minority applicants, increasing the application fee from $25 to $40, and the limited the use of paper applications. The university prefers on-line applications.

The data are masked slightly by an interesting trend seen in admissions offices throughout the country. Students increasingly are not identifying their ethnicity. Of the 17,764 Virginia Tech applicants, 2,477 did not declare a race. "When 14 percent of applicants and 13 percent of our enrollees do not tell us their race, it becomes difficult to get an accurate picture of campus diversity. Indeed, all categories of ethnicity, including Caucasian, showed a decrease in applications. Only the "unknown" increased. It is no longer possible to accurately compare figures from year to year," said McNamee.

The university will add new programs to strengthen minority undergraduate recruiting. "We plan to provide an opportunity for students to submit a statement describing the contribution they would make to the diversity of the campus, provide additional opportunities for financial aid, increase recruitment and marketing activities to attract greater numbers of applications from a more diverse pool of students and develop academic support programs that will help students make a smoother transition from high school to college," said Ford.

Information about admission to Virginia Tech is available at http://www.admiss.vt.edu.



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