How Stevens Tech Attracts Applicants and Students

Different strategies work for undergraduate and graduate admissions.

April 25, 2022
 
Stevens Institute of Technology

It should be easy to ignore the Stevens Institute of Technology. It’s a small university, with 8,000 students, about half of them undergraduates. It’s in Hoboken, N.J., right across the river from New York City, home to many institutions with similar strengths, such as Columbia University and Cornell University’s tech campus and many other engineering programs. In New Jersey, Princeton University (with its engineering school) is the best-known private institution, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology attracts residents of the state.

But quietly, over the last decade, Stevens has emerged as a player in attracting good students.

Ten years ago, Stevens adopted a goal of increasing undergraduate enrollment within a decade, to 4,000 students—a significant increase while seeing academic qualifications go up and increasing diversity.

The institute has been successful—applications have increased from 4,087 a decade ago to 12,500 this year.

Stevens grew from 2,427 undergraduates in 2011 to 4,064 last fall, a 67 percent increase. The enrollment of female undergraduates went up by 98 percent (although the percentage of female undergraduates is just 30 percent). There has been a 149 percent rise in underrepresented minority students since 2011 (to 18 percent of the student body).

Notably, the quality of applicants is also way up. The average SAT score (combined) in 2021 was 1432, an increase of 145 points since 2011. Even with the problems created by COVID-19, 97 percent of graduates either had jobs or were in graduate school six months after graduation in 2021.

The picture is also encouraging for graduate admissions.

In 2021, the university received 11,959 applications (and is expected to top 15,000 this year, with rolling decisions closing in August). That’s up from 3,268 in 2011.

Where Do the Applicants Come From?

Stevens has used its location near, but not in, New York City to solidify applicant interest, according to President Nariman Farvardin, who arrived in 2011. Indeed, if you browse around the Stevens website, you will find numerous pictures showing New York City, which is a short train ride away and is visible from the campus.

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Obviously, Stevens’ academic strengths—in technology and business—also resonate with many students, as does the placement rate for Stevens graduates.

Stevens has used precollege programs—free for underrepresented minority students—to build up its number of minority applicants. Farvardin is known as a strong booster of the programs.

“We deliver on return on investment” is the reason cited by Susan Gross, assistant vice president for financial aid and undergraduate admissions, for the gains. She said that Stevens takes great pride in the experience of students, and that ultimately word of mouth spreads.

She also said Stevens went test optional during the pandemic and hasn’t yet announced whether the test requirement will come back. She said that is popular with applicants and that the university will study its impact on the most recent class admitted. With every application getting multiple reads, she said she was confident that the university admitted a great class.

Constantin Chassapis, senior vice provost for graduate education, said a key part of Stevens’ success in graduate admissions is its belief in not relying on one country outside the U.S. to produce all the students. Farvardin was a foreign student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from Iran when the shah fell. He said the experience taught him that a country can go from sending many students to the United States (as Iran once did) to relatively few.

In the fall of 2011, Stevens had 203 new graduate students from China, 48 new students from India and 79 from other countries. Last fall, Stevens had 311 students from China, 821 from India and 111 from other countries. Chassapis said the increases reflected hard work by Stevens and also differences (generally) between the countries—he said Chinese students are open to online education (a fear of many was that COVID-19 in the U.S. or their home country would force them online), but Indian students highly value the in-person education they receive in the United States.

Stevens has arrangements with agents around the world, in the belief that “boots on the ground” is the only way to recruit students, Chassapis said.

And as to the policy of not overrelying on a single country, he said, “We don’t want there to be a single point of failure.”

Stephen R. Reynolds, president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of New Jersey, said, “The increasing enrollment numbers at Stevens have truly been incredibly impressive.”

Reynold attributed the numbers to Stevens’ “success in providing an educational experience that is built on one of its core and well-recognized strengths—technology—and its ability to deliver real value for its students and graduates.”

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