January 19, 2010 — Through Monday, the University of Virginia had fielded a record 22,396 applications for admission into the class of 2014.
The flood of applications represents the triumph of economics over demographics, said Gregory Roberts, U.Va.'s dean of admission. The number of high school seniors is beginning to decline, but the economy has many families looking for educational bargains.
U.Va. is an attractive option for recession-strapped families, having been ranked as the No. 1 "best value" among public colleges and universities for two straight years by the Princeton Review, Roberts said.
The application increase – which he predicts will end up being about 3 percent to 4 percent ahead of last year's total of 21,831 – comes despite a decline in the expected number of high school graduates in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, areas that supply many of U.Va.'s out-of-state students.
"We're honored that students continue to consider U.Va. a strong option for their college years, particularly in this economy," he said.
The University's financial aid program, AccessUVa, guarantees students aid packages that meet 100 percent of demonstrated need – packages that are loan-free for students from families whose income is up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and with loan caps for all other recipients of need-based aid.
The total cost of attendance for the current first-year class is estimated at $21,140 for Virginians and $43,140 for out-of-state students. Among students receiving aid, the average award is $15,840.
Clearly, the economy is on the minds of applicants. The number of students applying to the School of Nursing has increased by more than 20 percent, from 439 to 536, and applications to the School of Engineering and Applied Science are up by about 10 percent.
"My informal theory would be that in a bad economy, these are the kinds of jobs that people are drawn to," said Theresa Carroll, assistant dean for undergraduate student services for the School of Nursing.
She noted that applications to the Nursing School have been rising steadily in recent years, and the school has stepped up its recruiting efforts, especially for students from diverse backgrounds.
Roberts said that the increase in applications is reflected in virtually all major demographic classifications, with the exception of African-American students, whose numbers are "about even" with last year's record total. Breakdowns by applicants' residency are not yet available, he said.
For the third straight year, U.Va. admissions officials spent part of the fall traveling with colleagues from Harvard and Princeton universities, spreading the word that qualified students from all backgrounds are welcome at their schools, and that financial aid can make college affordable. Their joint tour drew considerable attention; at one stop in Washington, D.C., 1,400 students and parents turned out for an information session.
Applications for the fall's entering class were due Jan. 1. Decisions will be mailed to students no later than April 1, and will be available online in late March, Roberts said.
Current enrollment projections call for an entering first-year class of about 3,240 students.