By Matthew Calhoun
In 2005 when the Board of Trustees launched the ambitious Towards 2016 Strategic Plan, Fordham saw about 16,000 applications for the class of 2009 with an acceptance rate just below 50 percent.
This past year, Fordham saw a record breaking applicant pool of over 43,000 talented students, yet they accepted 48 percent of the applicants — a slight drop despite the immense and extensive rise in applications.
In fact, Fordham has the fifth lowest percent yield rate (percentage of accepted students who enroll at Fordham) of schools in the “National Universities” category in the U.S. News Rankings.
Despite the missing drop in Fordham’s acceptance rate that one would expect with such a rise in applications, Fordham has remained on track with its very gradual increase of the student body population.
The class of 2019 welcomed 2,189 freshmen while the class of 2017 welcomed 1,963 freshmen selected from a pool of 36,000 applicants.
The class of 2018, Fordham’s largest to date, saw 2,210 students enroll from a pool of just under 41,000 applicants. Although the university has seen a steady increase in applications over the past several years, the acceptance rate has hovered around 48 percent for quite some time.
Fordham has made changes to avoid the growing pains that many comparable universities face when increasing their student bodies.
This past year Fordham opened new freshman residence halls at both campuses and more than doubled the classroom and dining options at the Lincoln Center campus. Fordham has also made several other renovations, such as the upgrades to the seating and Astroturf at Jack Coffey Field.
This fall, students were welcomed back to campus to see a newer and larger campus bookstore at Rose Hill inside O’Hare Hall where the O’Keefe Commons event space once was. Students also saw tremendous upgrades to Walsh Hall, the largest residence hall at Rose Hill.
These upgrades do not come without shortfalls. The most worrisome of growing pains that the school faces is the housing shortage at Rose Hill. While housing for freshmen has increased, upperclassman housing is falling short of demand.
This August, the Office of Residential Life sent out an email to upperclassmen living on campus, which offered them a full refund of their housing deposits if they informed the school that they no longer planned to live on campus. In the past, students would not receive their deposit back and they would also face a fine for withdrawing from housing.
Other concerns that have been voiced on campus and remain unaddressed are the lack of sufficient space at the RamFit and Lombardi Memorial gyms as well as overcrowding of the dining halls during common meal times. As more and more students are accepted, Fordham must match the growing student body with growing campus resources.
Shortfalls of the university’s targeted endowment of $2 billion by 2016 mapped out in the Towards 2016 plan are likely to blame for these growing pains. The current university endowment stands at just under $700 million, about 35 percent of the 2016 goal that was set a decade ago. The 2011 benchmark of $1 billion as stated in the plan is still yet to be reached.
This huge, talented class from Fordham’s largest applicant pool in history comes at a time when the university suffers one of the biggest drops in U.S. News’ annual college rankings, falling eight spots to number 66.
This is a 12 spot drop from the ranking of 52 Fordham received after welcoming the class of 2016 just four years ago.
While it is unclear if the stagnation of Fordham’s acceptance rate despite the huge influx of applicants is a direct factor in Fordham’s drop in the rankings, many current and prospective students believe it is an indicator of Fordham’s reputation.
Other tactics Fordham’s Office of Undergraduate Admission could use are to steer away from using the non-binding early action application that has been in use for the past 12 years and to use the binding early decision application used by schools like NYU and Columbia.
Early decision requires applicants to sign a binding contract when applying that if accepted to Fordham, the applicant must withdraw all applications to other universities and enroll in Fordham’s freshman class.
Fordham will use both early decision and early action this coming application cycle, which will help to raise the school’s percent yield and lower the acceptance rate by having a set of accepted students that have confirmed they wish to enroll at Fordham before the deadline for regular decision applications occurs in January. While many schools have either early action or early decision, Fordham’s addition of early decision to the application process could signal a complete crossover to early decision in the coming years.
The application cycle for the class of 2020 will be the first time Fordham has used early decision since 2003.
It will be interesting to see how it affects Fordham’s acceptance rate and other statistics.
Matthew Calhoun, GSB ’17, is a finance major from Springborough, Ohio.