Campus & Community

Class of 2019 is one of University’s most ethnically and geographically diverse

Video: Members of the first-year class gathered to spell “DU” during Discoveries Week.

Even before its members arrived on campus in early September, the Class of 2019 was turning heads.

Selected from a pool of 15,000 applicants and numbering 1,430 students, the class represents one of the University’s most ethnically and geographically diverse to date. It also is one of the most academically accomplished classes in DU history.

Tom Willoughby, vice chancellor for enrollment, reports that 22 percent of first-year students identify as students of color, the highest percentage in the University’s history and an increase from 20 percent in fall 2014. About 68 percent of the class comes from outside Colorado — from 47 states and 17 different countries. What’s more, Willoughby says, an impressive 60 percent traveled more than 500 miles to attend the University, signaling that an increasing number of high-achieving students from all over the country regard DU as what Willoughby calls “a destination school.”

“I think it speaks to the continued rise in the University’s reputation, there is no doubt about it. And the reach of our reputation is becoming more national,” Willoughby says.

The students coming to the University of Denver continue to demonstrate a knack for academic achievement, he says, noting that 509 of the incoming students had a perfect 4.0 GPA in high school. Their average SAT score was 1222, up from 1208 last year, while the average ACT was 28, a slight increase from 27.6 in 2014.

What’s more, the class includes a number of students who earned prestigious scholarships from outside the University, including 26 Daniels Fund Scholars and 15 Boettcher Scholars, a jump from 21 and six, respectively, in 2014.

“We tied CU Boulder for the most Boettchers,” Willoughby says. The merit-based Boettcher Scholarship was created to keep Colorado’s top high school students in the state by covering full tuition and fees for 42 students each year.

Willoughby attributes the Class of 2019’s diversity and impressive academic profile, in part, to the University’s ongoing efforts to increase need- and merit-based financial aid.

For example, during the Ascend campaign — an eight-year fundraising effort that ended in 2014 — the University matched scholarship dollars raised, resulting in significantly more financial assistance. These funds, Willoughby explains, allow the institution to compete for students with schools that traditionally have provided more robust financial aid packages.

Another University effort, the Pathways Scholarship Program, partners with various foundations to provide additional funding for students with significant financial need.

In its bid to enroll more students of color, Willoughby says, the University has made great strides in creating an inclusive campus environment and in educating prospective students about life at DU. To name just one example: The Pioneer Prep Leadership Institutes for black and Latino/a students help college-focused high school sophomores and juniors learn how to navigate the admission process and prepare for their campus experience.

As a result of such efforts, applications from students of color are up — so much so that in the last decade, the University has experienced a 62 percent increase in the percentage of students of color making up the first-year class.

Many of these first-years are first-generation college students, who account for 16 percent of the Class of 2019. The University is just beginning to track its success in recruiting that population, and, in accordance with Chancellor Rebecca Chopp’s commitment to expanding student access to DU, Willoughby expects to see the percentage grow in the coming years. To accomplish this, the Office of Admission will intensify its efforts to change public perceptions about private universities as exclusive and financially out of reach.

Already, Willougby says, “people are looking at the University in a different way. If the aid is there, students will choose us.”

Regardless of their geographic or ethnic background, the students making up the Class of 2019 bring a host of talents and achievements to campus. As Willoughby told them in an address during Discoveries, the University’s orientation program: “You are accomplished musicians, artists, writers, debaters and athletes. You have contributed countless hours of your time to helping others less fortunate than yourselves and many of you have amazing life stories. … We believe in the potential of each of you.”

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *