According to Rob Port of the Say Anything blog, this is an effort to increase dismal graduation rates at the school.

University Of North Dakota Says They’re Shrinking Enrollment With Tougher Admissions Standards

“The number of incoming freshmen decreased by 449 from last year for a total of 1,908 this fall,” reports the Grand Forks Herald of the University of North Dakota’s fall semester enrollment.

That has at least some UND personnel worried. “This is a bigger decline than freshmen enrollment drop after the 500 year flood of 1997 , when freshmen had lots of reasons not to come to a disaster ridden city,” one UND insider emailed me. “Why is the enrollment down so much under VP Lori Reesor’s management?   No flood to blame, no Sioux name controversy to blame, no economic downtown to blame…so why?  Time to ask questions.  How many years of 20% decline in freshmen can UND sustain? What is the corrective course?”

Those are valid questions, but UND President Robert Kelley is suggesting through a spokesman that the decline has to do with UND raising enrollment standards. In short, this isn’t evidence of fewer students choosing UND, but UND choosing to accept fewer students. Which is something they hope will improve what are, frankly, abysmal graduation rates at the university:

UND hasn’t changed its admissions policy, but in recent years has accepted fewer students who don’t meet the overall criteria, said Johnson.

In the past, a student who didn’t quite meet the criteria could appeal the decision and the university would take a closer look at the student’s situation, he said. But the university discovered that many of the students who didn’t meet the minimum requirements likewise wouldn’t succeed and became burned out, he said.

“It’s also going to be difficult for them to pack back their debt load (if they don’t succeed),” he said. “We’ve been concerned about this — not just at UND, but across higher education — about students who rack up significant debt loads.”

Now, the university investigates fewer appeals.

A more selective process leads to more academically-strong students, faster graduation rates at both the four- and six-year levels and reduce the number of students who drop out, Johnson said.