How big is big enough? (page 2)

of 25 students can change the resources available by several hundred thousand dollars," said Karen Mercer, vice president for business affairs. "That variability makes it hard to commit money to projects and initiatives."

Cornell depends a lot on revenue from tuition, and that's especially true given the poor market conditions for the endowment over the past four or five years. In order to build the endowment back up, the spend rate has been reduced from 6 percent to 5 percent beginning in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. That change results in a $500,000 decrease in annual spending from the endowment.

And while things are better now, added Brown, no one thinks we'll see a return to the economic growth of the 1990s.

Growth is a financial reality, Stroud said. In order to continue to provide high-quality education, Cornell needs to attract more students. Those students, in turn, mean more revenue for the college and more money that can be invested in academic programs. And the college is already well-positioned. There has been steady enrollment growth over the past 10 years, from under 1,000 in 2001 to the record enrollment of 1,191 this year. Stroud said 2011 marked the second-highest number of applications.

"The college's enrollment has steadily increased over the last four to five years.  We have received record numbers of applicants for admission and consistently enrolled the academically strongest and most diverse first-year classes in our history," he said. "We have a strong foundation for considering enrollment growth for the right reasons."

Part of the reason the college is ready, he said, is the recently-completed Extraordinary Opportunities Campaign. The campaign helped launch Dimensions, the Berry Center, the Center for Law and Society (formerly the Pre-Law program) and more. Those initiatives have made Cornell even more attractive, he said.

The How

The first step is getting them to Cornell.

Applications have nearly quadrupled in the past 10 years, from 1,400 to about 4,000, Stroud said. Part of that is due to the ease of applying to schools using the common application, and part is that thanks to the Internet, high school students have access to more information about more colleges than ever before.

The trick isn't just getting students to apply, though. It's getting the right students to apply and admitting the right students. Cornell's team tries to interview every applicant, and unlike some schools that look only at GPAs, the admission team takes writing samples and letters of recommendation seriously.

They look for achievement-oriented, intellectually curious students who they think will thrive on campus. They also look for what the students will bring to campus beyond the

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