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Enrollment cap could be in UI's future

BY ALLIE JOHNSON | MARCH 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials said an enrollment cap would be a viable, if distant, possibility if the school's record-growth continues.

UI President Sally Mason told The Daily Iowan on Monday there is a chance the university will eventually have to "put the brakes on admissions" because of the increasing numbers of out-of-state and international students over the years.

"That growth can only continue so far," she said in an interview with the DI. "We're going to run out of space."

For the fall 2010 semester, the record-breaking 4,557-student freshman class marked a 500-person jump from fall 2009. According to the data from the Office of the Registrar, 54 percent of first-year students came from out of state, and 388 students were international.

And officials are preparing for an even bigger class next fall.

Beth Ingram, the UI associate provost for undergraduate education, said the rising numbers would be a reason for a potential enrollment cap.

"The university can't grow forever because it becomes expensive, but we try to admit every qualified student who applies," she said.



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The UI has never had an enrollment cap, she said, and she couldn't predict at which point officials would have to stop the UI's growth or when that might be.

"It's a long path from where we are now and where we might be in 10 or 15 years down the road," Ingram said. "A lot of things can happen."

The move wouldn't make the UI unique. Many universities have had to turn to enrollment caps, said Barmak Nassirian, an associate director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

"At public institutions, it happens during hard economic times when the resources just aren't there," Nassirian said.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison website, officials aim to scale back undergraduate enrollment to around 28,000. Its fall 2009 undergraduate enrollment was 28,690.

The University of North Carolina system dodged a 1 percent enrollment growth cap in the 2010-11 state budget when legislators decided to meet other funding requests, according to a statement from the system's president, Erskine Bowles.

And in 2009, the University of California Board of Regents approved a cap on freshman enrollments for all but three of the system's 10 campuses, according to the University of California-Los Angeles news service.

Nassirian said these situations arise when there simply isn't enough revenue to cover the expenses of all the students.

"By simply allowing people to come in you can't properly serve, I don't think you are doing anybody a favor," Nassirian said.

At the UI, Mason said any cap would give preference to qualified in-state students, and officials can be "very, very selective" when it comes to admitting out-of-state students — a change from the aggressive recruiting of out-of-state and international students of the past few years.

But several out-of-state students noted their substantial financial contribution as a reason to continue admitting non-Iowa residents.

UI junior Kelsey Shaw of Barrington, Ill., said officials shouldn't base admission standards on residency under an enrollment cap.

"They make so much money off of us," she said. "I think they should base it on grades, not whether you're from Iowa."

But UI sophomore Kathy Corcoran said the UI is a state school and should be treated as such — despite her Illinois residency.

"It's their state, their school," she said.


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