More than 3,500 students have submitted enrollment deposits to join Drexel University’s incoming freshman class.
Even accounting for “summer melt,” a term that refers to students who submit deposits in the spring but do not enroll in the fall, this freshman class is expected to be around 3,100 students — much larger than Drexel’s target of 2,400.
“Candidly, it was not our goal, necessarily, to be at 3,500 students,” Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success Randy Deike said.
“But if you make assumptions about yield rate increases, and you’re wrong — if you assume no increase and you have an increase — [the class is] going to be larger than anticipated,” Deike explained.
Drexel received almost the same number of applications as last year.
“A little over 28,000,” Deike said.
Because the number of students who decided to come to Drexel after being accepted last year was lower than usual, around 2,600, Deike said the University made a conservative estimate as to how many would choose to come this year.
Drexel offered around 22,000 students admission and around 15.8 percent of accepted students submitted enrollment deposits — a 43 percent increase over 2016 freshman deposits. Deike said this is probably the highest yield rate Drexel has seen in a decade or more.
Deike said the high yield is evidence of response to Drexel’s new enrollment strategy, implemented in 2015, which made numerous changes to Drexel’s admissions process, including adding $50 application fees and requiring an essay, SAT scores and two recommendation letters.
The university has also drastically changed its messaging.
“We’d become way too vocational in how we talked about Drexel — it was all about co-op. Co-op is critically important to the Drexel experience, but it’s not everything,” he said. It is only one part of Drexel’s academic curriculum.
Drexel has also increased the number of representatives sent to high school visits and college fairs — attending only 75 of them in 2014 and 3,075 in 2017.
In addition, the admissions department has been working more closely with high school guidance counselors and communicating more closely with prospective students’ families.
Provost Brian Blake has also asked each college to have ten touch points, from a recruitment perspective, where they individually engage with high schools.
“It’s hard to estimate how much of that had an impact this year,” Deike said. “But [yield] is up 7.1 percentage points from 2014.”
Deike said the yield rate piece is almost impossible to predict because all the changes in the admissions process are happening at once.
“We’re not just changing one or two things, we’re changing everything,” he said.
While there are models to predict how many accepted students Drexel University will yield, they aren’t necessarily very accurate — because these models use student enrollment data sets from Drexel’s previous admissions strategy.
Deike said there are many pieces in the admissions process including budgets and revenue, academic profile, enrolling right-fit students and student diversity.
“When you’re trying to manage all of those pieces and increase yield, there’s going to be some volatility,” Deike explained.
In addition to increasing Drexel’s yield, another goal with the new admissions strategy is to increase student retention. Approximately 89.1 percent of the fall 2015 freshmen returned to class for sophomore year — higher than Drexel’s average return rate of 84 percent.
Deike said this may be, in part, due to a shift in Drexel’s financial aid.
“We’re focusing more on need-based aid, and that’s had a significant impact on retention,” Deike said. “So not only have we seen the 7 percent increase in yield over three years, we’ve seen an over 4 percentage point increase in one-year retention for the fall 2015 class, which is unheard of.”
Prior to 2015, the majority of aid Drexel awarded was merit-based, according to Deike.