Dear Colleagues,

Saint Mary's continued to make extraordinary progress in strengthening the size, quality and economic profile of its undergraduate student enrollment for the fall 2011 term. Of particular note, the new student class enters with the strongest academic credentials in College history. The attached tables and charts provide descriptive and historical information on this historic group of students.

Quantity

Total undergraduate enrollment of 2,830 is the highest in College history, exceeding last year's previous record high of 2621 by 8.0% (209 students). This total also exceeds the College's budget target by over 200 students. A larger than budgeted new student enrollment and lower than anticipated attrition both contributed to this unexpected result.

New undergraduate student enrollment of 847 is the second largest in College history, falling short only of last year's record total of 907 by 6.6% (60 students). It also exceeds the College's budget target of 760 by almost 11.5% (87 students). A 27% increase in first-year student applications, a record low admit rate (69%) and a substantial reduction in yield on admitted students (from 24.1% for fall 2010 to 19.3% for fall 2011) netted 648 new first-year students. While this is 6.8% (47 students) lower than last year's record high of 695, the fall 2011 first-year class exceeded the College's budget target by 38 students. New transfer enrollment of 199 is also the second highest in College history, only exceeded by last year's all time high of 212.

Quality

As noted above, the academic credentials of the fall 2011 entering class are by far the strongest in College history. A record number of first-year students enrolling with honors at entrance (113) and an all-time low admit rate (69%) resulted in the class's average GPA and test scores rising to 3.56 and 1120 respectively. Similarly, an all-time high of 27 transfers enrolling with honors at entrance, a near doubling from last year's totals of 15, indicates the demonstrated academic achievement of the entering transfer class.

Ethnic diversity of the entering class remained strong for fall 2011, with over 52% identifying themselves as other than white. Growth in Asian-American students (from 16.3% last year to 19.8% for fall 2011) offset modest declines in Latino students (26.8% last year to 25.8% this fall) and Native-American students (from 3.5% last year to 2.8% for fall 2011.) Of concern, the proportion of the class identifying as African-American declined from 7.8% last fall to 4.8% for fall 2011. Geographic diversity was enhanced by a larger proportion of the entering class enrolling from other U.S. states (15% for fall 2011 vs. 11% last year) and from southern California (16% vs. 14% for fall 2010.) The male portion of the first-year class fell slightly to 38.4%.

Economic Profile

Somewhat greater economic stability and additional refinement of the College's financial aid packaging approach contributed to a 10.1% increase (from $20,888 for fall 2010 to $23,018 for fall 2011) in average net tuition per student. In the midst of the most troubled economic environment in the past five decades, new student average net undergraduate tuition at Saint Mary's has grown an astonishing 30% in the past three years. A noted national financial aid analyst recently opined that SMC may have achieved the most significant growth in this metric of any college in the country during this period.

The proportion of new students qualifying for Pell Grants declined slightly to 31%. The new student discount rate declined to 34.9 %, below the College's original budget target of 36% but above the January '11 goal of 33%. Recent analysis has confirmed that the College's precipitous decline in yield of honors and African-American students resulted from this late revision to the College's aid goals.

Total undergraduate institutional aid increased by over $2.5 million for fall 2011. Given the substantial increase in enrollment beyond budget targets, without any increase in institutional aid, net undergraduate tuition revenue (before accounting for related expenditures – which are likely to be substantial) is projected to exceed the College's budget target by $7 million.

Competitiveness

In a region long dominated by public higher education, the continued economic challenges facing states has swung the competitive balance further in the direction of independent institutions than at any time in at least the last half-century. More aggressive recruitment efforts, increased recognition of the strength of the College's academic program and evidence of institutional progress on needed facility enhancements have all helped Saint Mary's make inroads into the applicant pools of our independent competitors. To many interested parties, such as prospective students and their families, it appears that Saint Mary's is prospering more than others in this difficult environment and gaining the requisite competitive advantage.

Looking Forward

Saint Mary's enhanced competitive position and the public sector environment suggest that the coming year will provide an additional opportunity for progress in strengthening the profile of our undergraduate student population. Early indicators point to strong demand for midyear entry and first-year admission. The journey continues!

Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Sincerely,
Michael Beseda
Vice Provost for Enrollment
Vice President for College Communications

View Fall 2011 Enrollment Charts

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