The number of admitted students in 2019 was boosted by Lehigh’s Path to Prominence initiative, ending a decade of increasingly selective undergraduate admissions.
Bruce Bunnick, Lehigh’s director of admissions, said Lehigh saw steady growth in applications from 2010 to 2018. He said the number of applicants has increased by 4 percent to 7 percent each year.
Lehigh’s admission rate in 2010 was 37.9 percent. At a 22.3 percent admission rate, 2018 was the most selective year in Lehigh history.
“The fall of 2018 was the most selective,” Bunnick said. “We did not fully implement the growth for Path to Prominence, so the class size was smaller by about 150 students. In the fall of 2019, the increase in the (admittance) rate is attributed to the fact that we were seeking to enroll more first year students so we had to adjust.”
In 2019, the university received 15,649 applications and accepted 32 percent of those students. 1,406 of those accepted students now make up Lehigh’s class of 2024.
The objective of the Path to Prominence is to have larger incoming classes, said Sarah Bombard, senior associate director of admissions.
“We are looking to grow the university from 5,000 undergraduates to 6,000 undergraduates by 2027,” Bombard said.
Lori Friedman, director of media relations, works closely with the Path to Prominence.
Friedman said Lehigh hopes to grow by 100 undergraduate students each year for the next 10 years.
“The goal of admitting more students is to diversify and expand the student body,” Friedman said. “This opens access to a Lehigh education to more people, especially as we venture into new and innovative fields, such as population health, which is the focus of Lehigh’s new College of Health.”
Bunnick said Lehigh hopes to build a larger applicant pool by promoting the Lehigh brand nationally.
Admissions plans to further the reach to the south, the West Coast and the rest of the world, Bunnick said.
“We are not turning our backs on the states that border us here in Bethlehem — New Jersey, New York, Connecticut — we are still going to recruit aggressively in those areas,” he said. “We are trying to build an awareness of Lehigh away from our primary recruitment market.”
Bunnick said the ultimate goal of the initiative is to become recognized as a prominent research university in the United States. While Lehigh has an enormous reputation in the Northeast, administrators hope that by growing the student body and faculty, Lehigh will reach that same level of respectability across the U.S., Bunnick said.
Along with increasing enrollment size, Lehigh will also be opening the College of Health in fall 2020.
“We are just getting through E.D. 1, and we have an appropriate amount of students we feel that we can choose from, Bunnick said. “But as time goes on, we are going to scale up the percentage of applicants to the College of Health — we are going to recruit more heavily.”