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Mills enrollment sets records

Courtney Booker

Enrollment at Mills College has reached an all-time high this semester.

Currently, 973 undergraduate students and 508 graduate students are enrolled.

In the past five years there has been a 122 percent increase in applicants from 771 in 2003 to 1,715 in 2008.

According to the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Giulietta Aquino, the College’s strategic enrollment plan includes increasing undergraduate enrollment to 1,000-1,100 students by 2013.

The College has exceeded its enrollment goals in the past five years. Because of the increased number of applicants, the admission rate of the undergraduate college has conversely decreased, now 66 percent, compared to 80 percent just a few years ago, according to Aquino.

Three hundred and twenty -two new undergraduate students entered Mills this year, while there were 269 new graduate students. This year also marks the largest number of incoming graduate students. There were 761 applicants for the graduate programs, an increase from 640 last year.

Aquino attributes the increase in applicants to a “national recognition of Mills as a strong and thriving college for women.”

This national recognition includes the fourth consecutive year of being placed on the Princeton Review’s best 368 colleges in the nation, and also 75th place on a new list by Forbes magazine of the best colleges in the nation, placing Mills in the top two percent.

New additions to the College also attract interest according to Carol Langlois, the administrative dean of Graduate Recruitment and Enrollment. This includes the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business building and its new Center for Socially Responsible Business.

A reason for the increase in graduate school applicants is Langlois herself. She explained that her position did not exist before, and that she “cleaned up and streamlined many processes, and provided much better customer service” and “more strategic recruitment.”

According to Aquino, “marketing Mills as a viable option to undergraduate students” by increasing marketing strategies through publications and an updated website, has helped to increase applicant numbers.

An increase in the number of new students leaves many returning undergraduate students wondering if the College plans to limit its growth.

Currently there are 582 students living on campus, an increase from 409 five years ago. Although the completion of the Courtyard Townhouses has allowed for a greater number of campus residents, students have also felt the strain of a full residential system.

President Janet Holm-gren said the College has done studies for student growth, as well as that of faculty and staff.

“As far as I know, our residence halls are full, but they’re not overfull,” said Holmgren. “And we do have some flexibility in that regard,” she said.

According to the Office of Admissions, 90 percent of rooms on campus currently have only one occupant. However, some students have had unpleasant experiences attempting to find a space on campus.

“I mean, good for Mills for increasing enrollment, but it’s like they’re not following through with what that actually means,” sophomore Elena Whiteley said.

The problem of housing is also of concern for transfer students, who often have lower priority when assigned a room. Junior Katja Davis stated that it was “difficult” to find on-campus housing this semester as a transfer student. “And I’m mad because I got the most expensive housing, and I actually applied for [Ege Hall].”

“We were right on the fence, my mom and I – we had enough money to pay for school before but now we barely do,” she added.

When asked about who decides the number of students to admit, or if there is a limit to the growth of the College, neither Aquino nor Langlois had a straightforward answer. Aquino stated that the Office of Admissions decides on how many students to admit based on the strength of the applicant pool, and by “casting the net as widely and broadly as we can, to attract students with diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and perspectives.”

Of the incoming class, the largest ever, one third have lived or traveled abroad, and one half regularly speak a language other than English at home. 60 percent have participated in some kind of social justice work or community service. 179 students in this year’s incoming class received an academic honor or award in high school or college, and 13 received a full-ride Trustee scholarship. And finally, this year’s incoming class includes 24 bent twigs, and 26 mothers, 21 of whom have children under the age of 18.