Despite scandal, record numbers apply to Duke


Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University's applications decreased 4.6 percent for the fall freshman class, but the applicant pool is still the second-largest on record, the university announced.

The numbers released Tuesday were greeted with a sigh of relief by Duke officials, who feared a significant drop in applications in the aftermath of the lacrosse scandal that has made national news for 10 months. Early-admission applicants had decreased by nearly 20 percent.

This year's overall decrease follows five straight record-setting years for applications. Last year, 19,387 students applied. This year's total was 18,495. "Any time we get the second-highest number of applications in our history, regardless of what happened the year before, I'm happy," said Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions. "That's just good news in any context."

Guttentag said he doubted there would be a decline in academic quality in this fall's freshman class, despite the slight decrease in applications.

Duke poured resources into recruiting the past few months to offset coverage of the sexual-assault case involving three former members of the lacrosse team. About 600 current students volunteered to give tours, host visitors and return to their high schools to help spread positive messages about Duke. The university mailed about 70,000 booklets that focused on some of Duke's most accomplished students.

Guttentag said the student volunteers were successful recruiters.

"It's not just what you say but how you say it and who says it," he said. "They helped people to understand who Duke students really were, separate from anything that may have been painted in the media."

Applications from Hispanic, Asian and international students rose above last year's total, but applications from blacks decreased slightly. The case, in which the accuser is black and the accused players are white, highlighted racial divisions on campus last year.

Fifty-one percent of the applicants were women — the same percentage as last year, Guttentag said.

Duke will review the applications during the next three months, with an eye toward a freshman class of 1,665 in the fall. Another key indicator of the lacrosse fallout will be Duke's yield — the number of students who accept Duke's offer of admission.

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