Winter 2015

University welcomes diverse, high-achieving Class of 2018

First-year students gathered to spell "DU" at an event during Discoveries Week. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

First-year students gathered to spell “DU” at an event during Discoveries Week. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

With the start of fall quarter in early September, the University of Denver welcomed the 1,436-member Class of 2018 to campus.

“This is one of the most diverse classes we’ve had, so we’re pretty excited about it,” says Tom Willoughby, vice chancellor for enrollment. Twenty percent of first-year students identify as students of color, while 7 percent are international students, hailing from 17 different countries. About 67 percent of the class comes from states other than Colorado, with all 50 states represented in the population.

By contrast, Willoughby notes, when he started at DU in 2005, just 13 percent of the first-year class identified as students of color. And two years ago, as reported by the University of Denver Magazine, first-year students came from 46 states, with out-of-state students accounting for 61 percent of the class.

Willoughby attributes the class’ diversity to several factors. Increased geographic diversity results from the University’s systematic approach to outreach and to projecting its reputation beyond the Rocky Mountain region. Those efforts are enhanced every time a high-achieving student from elsewhere enrolls and tells her friends about DU.

“This class, more than any class before it, they’re just broadening our reputation, given that they come from so many different places,” Willoughby explains.

Enrollment also was given a boost by the University’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative, which aims to intensify academic activity in these disciplines while fostering the kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration that today’s marketplace demands.

To attract a diverse array of students to the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, the University used the newly created Ritchie Scholarship to supplement financial aid packages, meaning that the University could meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need.

Typically, Willoughby says, the University can offer financial aid packages that meet about 84 percent of financial need. The resulting 16 percent funding gap has led many outstanding students to opt for institutions they deem more affordable or that offer more aid.

The strategy paid off. “The results were dramatic,” Willoughby says. “For those offered the Ritchie Scholarship, 52 percent accepted.” That spurred an enrollment surge at the Ritchie School, with 176 students setting their sights on an engineering major, as compared to 121 students last fall. Of those, 46 are students of color, up from 25 in fall 2013.

“This is a statement about the reputation of the institution. Students want to come here,” Willoughby says.

It also reflects the University’s commitment to the public good, he says.

“The returns for the lives of these students and for the University as a whole? You can’t even quantify it,” Willoughby says, noting that the students get a high-quality educational experience that may well transform their lives and communities. The institution, meanwhile, benefits from their different perspectives and backgrounds.


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