Over the past several years, St. Thomas has experienced changes in the characteristics of first-year students. The improvement in the academic profile of these students has resulted not just from students accepted for admission, but also reflects a higher quality in the applicant pool. I also am pleased to note that the percentage of undergraduate students of color and international students has recently increased and that undergraduate students continue to represent a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
With this positive difference, the academic needs of some first-year students also have changed. The strategic planning process challenges the university to look at its programs and determine the best use of resources.
An important initiative created in the late 1980s to assist incoming students who were not prepared for the academic challenges of UST due to circumstances beyond their control was the Academic Preparation Program (APP). These circumstances included first-generation, rural, economically disadvantaged or historically underrepresented and underserved students. APP focused on enrolling students who did not qualify for regular admission but demonstrated a desire and motivation to complete a baccalaureate degree. The Admissions Committee looked at each and every applicant for suitability for APP before denying regular admission.
Although APP has been successful in fulfilling its mission, it has become increasingly difficult to fill the program. Over the past several years St. Thomas has not received enough applications from students for whom APP originally was designed. In addition to the change in the applicant pool, the Admissions Committee has found that students who are offered the opportunity to interview for APP usually also are offered regular admission to other institutions and therefore choose not to attend St. Thomas. The numbers enrolled in the program have declined from a high of 28 (of 41 offers) in fall ’95 to seven (of 13 offers) in fall ’98 and six (of 16 offers) in fall ’99. St. Thomas did not enroll an APP class for fall 2000 and has not yet offered interviews for fall 2001.
A mounting need in the Twin Cities is to serve the immigrant populations who are graduating from high school. Many of these students are academically capable of meeting the demands of a UST degree, but are held back because they have not had the opportunity to develop their English-language skills. It has become apparent that St. Thomas should begin to plan strategic ways of meeting the language needs for this growing and diverse population of students.
APP has been a wonderful program that truly has made a difference in the lives of students. I want to commend all faculty who dedicated many professional hours to this program. The faculty’s efforts indeed have been exemplary. However, the shift in the student population necessitates a change of direction. After thorough review and consultation, Dr. Ralph Pearson and I have decided to discontinue APP and focus future resources on addressing the needs of our students who require additional support for the development of English language skills.