From the Desk of Eric Kaler: A Balancing Act

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Summer 2016


This spring, the Twin Cities campus adopted a five-year plan to guide enrollment and to help achieve our vision for excellence. Our approach to admissions matters to alumni like you and me because it translates into the diversity and quality of our students, the reputation of our University and, ultimately, the value of our degrees.

We have an unswerving obligation to the young people and families of Minnesota, and we’ve been true to that. Sixty-three percent of our 5,771 first-year students last fall were Minnesota residents and, among our entire Twin Cities undergraduate study body of 30,511—including thousands of transfer students—more than 66 percent were Minnesota residents.

At the same time, I don’t believe you can have excellence or a world-class academic experience without diversity, and geographic diversity is also central to our aspiration to be among the nation’s best public research universities. That’s why we’ve been strategic about growing our out-of-state (including international student) enrollment.

Our new enrollment plan, with Board of Regents approval, balances these interests with the following goals and principles.

To grow the Twin Cities campus modestly over the next five years by 1,500-2,500 undergrads, for a total of 32,000 to 33,000.

To admit for success those students who have a strong probability of graduating in a timely manner. While we have holistic admissions criteria, we seek students with high GPAs, rigorous high school course work, and, for all students, strong test scores.

To maintain affordability and access for Minnesota students by stabilizing or even reducing the average inflation-adjusted student debt at graduation. Our goal is to enroll approximately 65 percent Minnesota residents in the freshman class.

To enhance financial aid to attract an economically diverse and talented student body.

To support timely graduation. Our goal is a four-year graduation rate that meets or exceeds 65 percent, with a six-year goal of 82 percent. In the past decade we’ve made remarkable progress on going from 37 to 63 percent for the four-year rate, and from 61 to 78 percent on the six-year rate.

To provide a high-quality student experience by accommodating 90 percent of freshmen in on-campus housing while ensuring superb advising, state-of-the-art classrooms, and undergraduate research opportunities.

To be attentive to workforce needs by aiming to increase our annual number of science, technology, engineering, and math degrees from 3,300 to 3,600, with an emphasis on fields important to Minnesota’s future, such as food science, environmental science, and health disciplines.

This vision will require new investments in the U. In an environment of reduced state funding, we plan to incrementally raise nonresident tuition rates, while carefully monitoring the impact on our ability to recruit and retain those students. Our goal is to maintain Minnesota resident tuition and fees (currently $13,840) in the middle half of our Big Ten peer group.

Managing enrollment to ensure students get a world-class education is a delicate balancing act. But I’m confident our attention to this will drive the U’s reputation and excellence for years to come.

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