Freshman Enrollment Soars at CUA
Arriving on campus this week is one of The Catholic University of America's biggest freshman class in years.
Along with the regular sights of packed minivans and parents and students clutching maps, visitors to campus will notice a collection of modular homes on campus: the university's answer to the housing crunch anticipated last spring.
Under the leadership of the Very Rev. David M. OConnell, C.M., Catholic Universitys president, the university created a temporary residential court of 26 modular homes, freeing up residence hall space for a booming freshman class of 816 students, up from 597 the previous year. John Dolan, dean of enrollment management, said the biggest single factor in the increase is "the clarity of our Catholic message," emphasized by Father OConnell in his first year.
Father OConnell quoted Pope John Paul II in a widely reported inaugural speech Nov. 19, saying "the university community should give a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activity." The speech made an impact, Dean Dolan said. By mid-December, the university had received 1,254 early applications twice the number it received a year earlier.
The universitys recruitment efforts centered on Catholic Universitys quality academic programs, framed by the universitys Catholic character and mission.
"We emphasized a quality Catholic education, and thats what students responded to," Dean Dolan said. "Students who find out what were all about here are telling us this is the Catholic school they were looking for."
The university is also reaping the benefits of a "baby boomlet" that all higher education institutions are competing for, Dean Dolan says. With 2.8 million students graduating from high school, colleges all over reported a sharp rise in applications.
And more students and their families say that theyre looking for a values-based education. In a national survey of graduating students, 850,000 said they favored a denominational institution for higher education, with the majority leaning to Catholic colleges and universities, Dean Dolan said.
Catholic University aggressively targeted those students. The university increased its advertising budget, created a new telecommunications center to contact graduating seniors directly and launched a system to handle on-line applications. More than 700 applications were filed over the Internet this year, the first year the university has accepted on-line applications.
Meredith Brejla of Highland Ranch, Colo., wanted a small, friendly setting and a challenging academic environment. And the graduate of St. Marys Academy also sought to continue her education in a Catholic setting. "Catholic University was the perfect place to go where I can practice my faith," Miss Brejla said.
An aspiring FBI agent, Miss Brejla was drawn to a strong politics department at Catholic University, and the opportunity to plug into internships to prepare for her career.
"Its more like a community than any other school I visited," Miss Brejla said. "I knew I would like it there."
In response to the housing crunch, the university created Curley Court, a new residential community of 26 modular housing units purchased from St. Anselms College in Manchester, N.H. Juniors and seniors will live in the spacious units, each with two bedrooms separated by a kitchen, large bathroom and living area. The units are wired for cable television and connected to the universitys computer network.
Other notable facts about CUAs enrollment boom:
Dean Dolan said the universitys goal for next years freshman class is 850 students. "Our three-to-five year enrollment model calls for steady growth," he said.
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