For UM’s freshman class, effects of economic recession subdued

The impact of the economic recession can be felt everywhere, from the aggressive incentives offered by car dealerships to the once-employed workers that scour newspapers for job offers.

It might be comforting to know, then, that its impact on enrollment at the University of Miami for 2009-2010 has been substantially milder.

Early indicators suggest that the incoming freshman class for this academic year is much like that of previous years in both size and composition, with slight rises in the number of international students as well as total enrolling freshmen.

“The good news is, we had more applications this year than we had last year,” said Paul Orehovec, vice president of enrollment management and continuing education. “A couple handfuls more.”

Orehovec, whose division oversees UM’s admission and recruitment-related offices, said the university had met and even slightly exceeded its goal of recruiting 2,000 freshmen for the fall semester, on par with the 2,010 that enrolled last year.

While members of the class of 2013 were concerned by the downturn in our economy, they seemed content with their decision to attend UM.

“I eliminated what schools I applied to based on whether or not they offered scholarships,” freshman Kira Richards said. “But the well-rounded academics and the social aspect of the school appealed to me.”

Though Orehovec characterized the admissions process over the last 12 months as “challenging” and even “crazy,” citing serious concerns as to how many admitted applicants would actually choose to enroll given their financial well-being, he felt that the impact of the recession on the most recognizable private institutions was subdued.

“I suspect the ‘middle-tier’ and ‘lower-tier’ private schools had a difficult time,” he said. “There’s no question … more students were opting to go to lower-cost public universities. [But] the best private universities—and I put the University of Miami in that group—I think they did fine.”

Some students admitted their perceptions of college tuition shifted over the past year. On the other hand, they did not feel the cost of attending UM was exorbitant, particularly given the availability of financial aid and merit-based scholarships.

“It’s pretty reasonable,” freshman Salvatore Lee Puma said. “Yeah, I was surprised. My dad was all, ‘I have the money … you’re going there no matter what.’”

That is not to say the entire university remained unaffected by the economic crisis. Orehovec cited UM’s endowment funds as one area of noticeable decline.

“There’s a whole series of things that could be impacted by a down economy… This year will be a very telling year.”