The University of Baltimore said Wednesday it will continue admitting underclassmen, rejecting a recent proposal to scrap the freshman and sophomore classes altogether and opting instead to strengthen its first-year program.
Last month, the university's new president, Kurt L. Schmoke, said the school was considering discontinuing the freshman and sophomore classes and again becoming an upper-division college that enrolled only juniors and seniors. Since the first freshmen were admitted in 2007, the school's enrollment growth has waned. In addition, it has struggled to graduate new students in four years.
"It allowed us to look more closely at our enrollment and admissions practices," Schmoke said in an interview. "It has been broadening to a discussion about what's our mission and where we're going."
Schmoke sought input from the university community about the proposal before making a decision.
"We've been looking at the strengths of the current program, trying to figure out what makes the University of Baltimore distinctive," he said.
Schmoke told students, faculty and staff in an email Wednesday that the university will develop "a more targeted freshman program that is closely aligned with UB's career-oriented, professional offerings."
Peter Toran, UB vice president for university advancement and communications, said that the school is examining first- and second-year courses while focusing on its accelerated learning programs, which allow students to apply credits toward both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Schmoke said UB will continue a program launched last spring that gives free tuition to incoming first-time freshmen on a four-year graduation track.
He added that the school would continue to ramp up efforts to admit community college students. He plans to visit every community college president in the state to work on recruitment.
"While we've concluded we have to make some changes in the program to improve it," Schmoke said, "overall we should retain freshmen at the same time of increasing our efforts to admit students from the community colleges."
In addition, he will move UB's freshman application deadline to April 1, similar to that of other colleges. Previously, he said, the school has had a "rolling process" for application deadlines and has admitted students as late as a week after the start of classes.
Schmoke said the faculty expressed concern about the school's ability over the years to provide support services to freshmen similar to what other universities offer. He said that while the university has such services, they were not consolidated.
He said the school now groups together advisory services, supplemental instruction, writing and math in the College of Arts and Sciences. He said the school also moved to retain scholarships targeted to freshmen.
Daniel Gerlowski, an economics professor and president of the faculty Senate, lauded Schmoke for meeting with members of the UB community before making a decision.
"I think [Schmoke] spoke with every student here; I'm serious," Gerlowski said. "He has gotten input from all stakeholders; he has raised the importance of faculty. We certainly feel we were part of this decision.
"We have been doing this for seven years, and we have a better idea of what works and what doesn't," Gerlowski added. "We want to emphasize programs that students are successful in and getting careers in."
The decision was welcome news to students such as UB senior Alex Greif of Baltimore, who came to the university as a freshman. He said that the school still needs to commit more funds to freshman programs and increase efforts to bring in quality students.
"Most of the students think [retaining the freshman class] is a good idea," Greif said. "UB is starting to build a strong community. It hasn't been known as an on-campus school but ... you're starting to seeing more students lingering around on campus. It's starting to become more social."