CORVALLIS - A record number of applications from freshmen will translate into more than 700 new students at Oregon State University, officials predict, boosting OSU's fall term enrollment to more than 15,300 students.

It is the highest enrollment the university has had since 1990-91, when 16,048 students showed up for the first day of fall classes.

Just three years ago, Oregon State's fall term enrollment had plummeted to 13,784 - a 30-year low. But a strategic recruitment and retention program, combined with aggressive marketing and an increase in scholarships, has turned the situation around, says Bob Bontrager, director of OSU admissions and orientation.

In 1997, enrollment rose to 14,127; in 1998, 14,618. This year, it could reach as high as 15,400. Final numbers won't be available until the end of the fourth week of classes, in late October.

"We feel good about our situation," Bontrager said. "We have been able to significantly increase enrollment while still attracting high-achieving students. But it's very competitive out there and we cannot afford to become complacent."

Bontrager said OSU has received 6,507 freshmen applications this year - the most in the school's history. Part of that total reflects the thinking of today's students, who often apply to two or three universities to give themselves more options. But admissions experts have ways of figuring out who will matriculate. The number of applicants who have paid advance tuition deposits, for example, is up significantly, Bontrager said.

Bontrager said OSU's minority enrollment also may increase. Applications from students of color rose about one-third this year, from 856 in 1998 to 1,136 this fall.

"That, too, is a record," he said.

OSU should have a very large freshmen class, which is reflected in applications for university housing. Tom Scheuermann, director of University Housing and Dining, said OSU expects to have 600 more students in university residence halls, cooperatives, and the College Inn than last year.

Already, more than 3,800 students have been placed.

"We are going to be near capacity in university housing this year," Scheuermann said. "We're optimistic that we will be able to accommodate everyone, especially once fraternity rush is over, but things will be tight for the first week or so."

Andy Hashimoto, associate provost for academic affairs, said OSU has added class sections to meet student needs, especially in high demand areas like the "baccalaureate core" courses.

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Bob Bontrager, 541-737-4411