Butler University has seen applications spike 43 percent over the last two years even though its 2009 strategic plan warned against a coming enrollment decline.
The big difference? March Madness.
Butler’s two consecutive runs to the championship game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament gave the Indianapolis private college massive national media exposure in 2010 and 2011. And apparently, teenagers were watching.
“The success of the men’s basketball team and the increase in our national reputation for academics has made Butler a first-choice school for students throughout the country,” said Tom Weede, Butler’s vice president for enrollment management, in a prepared statement. Other similar colleges, Weede noted, have seen applications drop recently.
Indeed, that’s what Butler expected to experience three years ago when its executives and trustees drew up their latest five-year plan. Demographic trends showed a dip in the number of national and Midwest high school graduates, leading Butler to brace for stiffer competition for new students.
“Given the anticipated demographic declines, competition for talented students will grow more intense,” Butler’s officials wrote in the new five-year strategy, titled, “Dare to Make a Difference.”
But Butler’s spike in visibility, as well as an increase in the rates of high schoolers going to college, have more than offset any decline.
The private secular college will welcome 1,111 freshman students on Saturday, its largest class ever. Two years ago, Butler enrolled 1,067 freshmen. And before that, its freshman classes were all below 1,000 students. The school has more than 4,600 students in total.
Meanwhile, the GPAs and test scores of the incoming freshman have risen slightly over the past two years. Incoming freshman this year sport average high school grade point averages of 3.8, up from 3.7 two years ago. SAT scores have held steady at an average of about 1,740.
Pre-pharmacy remains the most popular major for incoming students.