Biggest freshman class in 15 years at Towson Aggressive marketing, demographics credited

September 03, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Due to incomplete information provided by Towson State University, an article in Tuesday's editions incorrectly listed the number of international students at the school. Including its undergraduate and graduate divisions and English Language Center, the university has 419 international students this semester, compared with 298 in fall 1993.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

When classes start at 8 a.m. this morning at Towson State University, the largest freshman class in 15 years will be finding its way around campus.

More than 1,850 first-year students are enrolled, with the number expected to grow as registrations continue through the week. The last time Towson State had so many freshmen was in 1981 when 1,900 students arrived; last year, about 1,500 freshmen were enrolled.


"It came as a bit of a surprise. We had projected fewer," said Lonnie McNew, associate vice president of enrollment management, who attributes the increase to demographic changes and aggressive marketing.

What also makes the number noteworthy, McNew said, is that the university's standards are more stringent than they were in the early 1980s. For example, freshman class Scholastic Assessment Test scores have jumped from an average of 886 in 1980 to 1,000 in 1995.

"It's not that we had open enrollment. But a lot [of students] we admitted then, we would not admit now," McNew said, adding that the university also is focusing on students with higher grade point averages, who are more likely to stay and graduate.

He attributes the freshman phenomenon to aggressive marketing by college officials, as well as a growing population of college-age young people, often called "echo baby boomers."

Other universities are experiencing the impact of the new college generation.

At a meeting last month of the University of Maryland System Board of Regents, Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said that an "informal survey of our institutions suggests the numbers and quality of first-time freshmen will be moderately higher." An enrollment report is due next month.

The 11-campus system, which includes Towson State, is anticipating a 20 percent increase in total enrollment by

the year 2002.

Goucher College, an independent, liberal arts college in Towson, will have its second-largest freshman class since 1987 with 273 students when it opens Thursday, said Barbara Fritze, vice president of enrollment management. Its total undergraduate enrollment is 1,000.

Goucher and Towson State students will find Towson a more welcoming town this year. Banners have been placed on poles and across streets greeting new and returning students.

"It's a way the university and Goucher College and the community can work together to be partners," said Towson State vice president of administration and finance Don McCulloh, who promoted the banners. "We all live together and should learn to enjoy each other."

Previously considered a Maryland commuter college, Towson State now draws students from around the nation, especially New Jersey and New York. It also targets international students.

In three years, the number of international students at the university has grown from 33 to 57, including 38 freshmen. They hail from 35 countries.

"Our student body at Towson traditionally has been rather provincial," said Jeffrey Haas, associate director of admissions for international student recruitment. "We need a better mix. It will help the traditional Maryland student coming here broaden their perspective."

Even with the extra freshmen, the university's student body will be about the same size as last year with 14,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

But campus residence halls -- where more than 66 percent of incoming freshmen live -- are feeling the impact of the growth, said Art Taguding, acting director of the residence department.

"We're more than full," he said. "We're creating overflow spaces."

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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