North­eastern con­tinues to attract the top stu­dents from across the U.S. and around the world due to the university’s emphasis on growing areas of interest such as global expe­ri­en­tial learning and engage­ment, research, and com­bined bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for Enroll­ment Man­age­ment and Stu­dent Life Philomena Man­tella told the Fac­ulty Senate on Wednesday.

In order to meet these stu­dents evolving needs, Man­tella said the uni­ver­sity has increas­ingly focused on pro­viding flex­ible aca­d­emic pro­grams and an unprece­dented level of financial-​​aid investment—$204 mil­lion in 2013–14, the largest total in the university’s 115-​​year history.

We are rising to the chal­lenge of the more demanding stu­dent,” Man­tella told the fac­ulty. “That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Our work is never going to stop. We are always going to evolve our programs.”

North­eastern received 47,364 appli­ca­tions from prospec­tive stu­dents for incoming class in Fall 2013, which rep­re­sents about a 36 per­cent increase from the number received for 2007. In addi­tion, the mean SAT score for Northeastern’s most newest class (1390) was the highest in the last seven years, while 64 per­cent of those first-​​year stu­dents ranked in the top 10 per­cent of their high school class.

We have another fan­tastic class,” Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, said at the meeting. “I don’t think there is any other uni­ver­sity that has an orga­ni­za­tion like we have, and you can see the results.”

North­eastern is not only accepting top stu­dents, but the stu­dents are staying at the uni­ver­sity after their freshman year. Man­tella said Northeastern’s reten­tion rate for 2013 is 96 per­cent, up from 90 per­cent in 2006. Like­wise, the grad­u­a­tion rate has increase from 64 per­cent in 2000 to 86 per­cent in 2013.

This is such a spe­cial place,” Man­tella noted. “It is an incred­ibly com­pelling uni­ver­sity and all of what you do with the stu­dents is such a trans­for­ma­tive expe­ri­ence and that is why we, as an insti­tu­tion, have moved so dramatically.”

Looking for­ward, Man­tella said the uni­ver­sity con­tinues to explore new ways to high­light the four-​​year/​two co-​​op option for stu­dents, which com­ple­ments the tra­di­tional path stu­dents take with three co-​​ops in five years. Co-​​op is the sig­na­ture com­po­nent of Northeastern’s expe­ri­en­tial learning model. In the 2012–13 aca­d­emic year, North­eastern had 7,968 co-​​op place­ments with more than 2,900 employers in the United States and around the world.

Man­tella told the Fac­ulty Senate mem­bers that interest in the four-​​year, two-​​co-​​op option is rising. “We need to make this offering more com­pelling and more acces­sible,” she explained. “The objec­tive here is to enhance stu­dent flex­i­bility and open­ness to the pro­grams we have so we can meet that market interest and market demand.”

Con­tin­uing the university’s com­mit­ment to a diverse stu­dent body, Man­tella said the divi­sion of Enroll­ment Man­age­ment and Stu­dent Affairs is also exploring addi­tional ways to engage and attract more stu­dents from African-​​American, Latino, and Native Amer­ican fam­i­lies and backgrounds.

Vice Pres­i­dent of Enroll­ment Man­age­ment Jane Brown noted that last year there was an increase in the number of Latino stu­dent appli­cants
and enrollees, and the uni­ver­sity is boosting efforts to con­nect with prospec­tive African-​​American students.

We have really inten­si­fied our efforts,” Brown said of increasing African-​​American stu­dent enroll­ment. “We have done very tar­geted out­reach and are looking at the kind of infor­ma­tion we may not be giving them enough of, such as the university’s afford­ability and finan­cial aid opportunities.”