They came in late August. In droves. Nearly 1,200 of them. Freshmen. And when they came, they not only bucked a trend, they ushered in a new era at Xavier.
Despite the difficulties of the economy and the decline in enrollment at many of Xavier’s competitor schools, more students chose to enroll at Xavier this year than at any other time in the University’s 178-year history. And that, say University officials, is a dramatic statement about the quality and mission of Xavier.
“That’s a strong endorsement of the academic progress and sense of community Xavier presents,” says Terry Richards, vice president for enrollment management. “It’s a validation of everything we stand for.”
This year’s class of 1,174 students is nearly 40 percent larger than last year’s class of 860 students and was chosen from among 7,152 prospective students—the largest ever to apply to Xavier. The numbers boost Xavier’s total student population this fall to 6,966.
The class, however, continues Xavier’s reputation of academic achievement. Collectively, the students’ average high school grade point average was 3.54 on a scale of 4.0—in other words, they’re A students. Nearly a quarter of them ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes, with 20 students ranked No. 1 in their class.
The students are 46 percent male and 54 percent female, continuing the trend of more women than men. A total of 13 percent are minorities and 20 percent are first-generation college students, both of which match the long-established Jesuit mission of helping lift up others. And 11 percent of the students came from Jesuit high schools, a slight increase over last year.
Perhaps the most dramatic change is where the students are from. The number of high school students in Ohio is on the decline, so a more concerted effort is underway to recruit on a larger regional and national scale. This year, 48 percent of the students are from outside of Ohio, coming to Xavier from 40 states and 12 countries. Xavier received more inquiries from students in New York, Illinois, Texas and California than from any other state except Ohio and neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.
About 90 percent of this year’s first-year students are also living on campus, pushing the number of students in the residence halls to 2,042. What that amounts to is a tight squeeze for the students, forcing University officials to push up plans that were already in place to build a new residence hall on campus. While not finalized, the new building—which is expected to gain board approval and be paid for with private funds generated by the To See Great Wonders campaign—is slated to be built between Bellarmine Circle and the new Williams College of Business building that is now under construction.
The addition of more residence hall space was already underway as part of a larger plan created by the University and approved by the Board of Trustees to boost Xavier’s overall enrollment figures each year. While higher enrollment numbers can be easily achieved by simply accepting more students, that won’t happen if it means sacrificing quality or eliminating the “small” feel of the University.
To achieve this, more faculty are being hired to ensure the student-teacher ratio remains at 12:1. More classrooms are being added so class sizes stay around 22. Some programs, such as nursing, have caps on the number of students admitted to ensure the quality doesn’t suffer. And that, like admission standards, is not changing.