Campus & Community

Diverse and high-achieving: the Class of 2018

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 just 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 their 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.


The Class of 2018: At a Glance

Here’s a snapshot of the Class of 2018, which was selected from a pool of nearly 19,000 applicants:

• As of Sept. 8, the class numbered 1,436 students, bringing total undergraduate student enrollment to 5,379.

• 20 percent of the class identifies as students of color.

• 7 percent are international students, hailing from 17 different countries.

• 67 percent of the class comes from states other than Colorado, with all 50 states represented in the population.

• 33 percent of first-year students are from Colorado, 25 percent from the West and Southwest, 18 percent from the Midwest, 12 percent from the Northeast and 6 percent from the Southeast.

• Sixty percent traveled more than 500 miles to attend DU.

• Students in the first-year class graduated from 909 different high schools.

• Some 460 members of the class had a high school grade point average of 4.0.

• The average high school grade-point average was 3.7.

• The class includes several recipients of prestigious Colorado scholarships — 6 Boettcher Scholars and 19 Daniels Fund Scholars.




  1. Although it is interesting to read about how “diverse” the incoming student population is, the article does not even address the more important issue about how “selective” DU is, whether DU is admitting fewer students, and what the average test scores are. For better or worse, improvements in those areas will enhance DU’s academic reputation quite a bit more than single-digit increases in “people of color,” whatever that phrase currently means. Do you have any info on test scores, percentage of applicants admitted, etc?

    • Your comment is extremely short-sighted and reflects unbelievably shallow thinking. DU is neither selective, nor is it diverse. However, perhaps one reason many talented students end up enrolling elsewhere is because of, among other reasons, a lack of diversity. In that entirely plausible case, your statement is unequivocally wrong.

      It does not take a heck of a lot of research to find the statistics you are looking for.

      University of Denver:

      Compare those numbers to that of a public institution with 3 times as many students (and much greater diversity):

      • Funny, you say it didn’t take a heck of a lot of research, but your article doesn’t contain any info on test scores. Perhaps it’s not as easy as you thought. And who cares about University of Michigan–what does that have to do with anything concerning DU? But thank for you, anyway, for the random link to Michigan info.

        Point: harsh truth is that most alumni don’t care about diversity as a goal in itself. If people of color want to attend DU, then great. If they don’t, then great. That is their choice. Alumni care more about how selective their school is, whether DU is making progress on that front. I thought it was odd that an article on an incoming class did not include the most important stats that will impact a school’s reputation.

        Please people, don’t ever utter the phrase “inclusive excellence” ever again…it is horrible. There must be a better way to phrase what you are trying to say. Perhaps they need to set up a task force to come up with a better phrase that doesn’t make people gag.

        In any case, I’m all about DU’s success, and love to see the progress they are making. It’s a great school, let’s just not put this apparent goal of “IE” above more important things.

  2. Many talented students may be deciding to attend other institutions because of a lack of diversity at University of Denver. Therefore, increasing diversity may have the very real effect of increasing the matriculation of talented students, and therefore continuing to increase the academic reputation of the university.

    I hope DU continues to seek out such talented and diverse classes in the future, and makes inclusive excellence and diversity a priority.

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