Penn State applications soar; Erickson says he’s leaving university ‘in very good shape’

mcarroll@centredaily.comApril 29, 2014 

— Penn State is on pace for a record number of applications this year, Rodney Erickson told the university Faculty Senate on Tuesday, in what was his last formal address to the group as president.

“I feel I’m leaving (the university) in very good shape,” said Erickson, whose last day on the job is May 11. “Part of that strength is the fact that enrollment is so strong.”

The outgoing president said the university has received more than 119,000 total applications so far, up more than 12,000 from last year at this time and 3,000 from the same time in 2012.

Undergraduate applications exceeded 81,000 as of Monday, a big increase from last year when Penn State saw those numbers sag to 71,410. In 2012, the university had 77,596 undergraduate applications.

Through Tuesday, more than 14,700 students had accepted their offers of admission to enter baccalaureate programs at all campuses for summer or fall sessions. New first-year students starting in the summer will top 2,000 for the first time at University Park, according to the university’s numbers.

Erickson also praised the university’s fundraising efforts, noting its multiple-year For the Future campaign exceeded the goal of $2 billion.

“I think it’s remarkable in the midst of a Great Recession and all of the other challenges we face,” he said.

Erickson told the Faculty Senate in his remarks that the university will face a host of issues in the coming years, including keeping a Penn State education affordable and adjusting to teaching and learning in the digital age.

“My final request is you continue to strive for excellence in everything you do,” he said.

Kim Steiner, director of the Arboretum at Penn State, praised Erickson for a recent $1 million donation the outgoing president and his wife, Shari, made to the university.

The Ericksons’ gift will benefit The Arboretum at Penn State, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the Smeal College of Business.

“I can say he was never anything other than completely supportive of everything we do here in the Senate,” Steiner said, “in ways most of us didn’t even notice.”

The Senate as a whole approved a motion Tuesday honoring Erickson for his work for the university.

Incoming president Eric Barron, who will start work May 12, was touring a branch campus and did not attend the meeting Tuesday.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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