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With more applicants than ever, U of M gets more choosy

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Record numbers of applicants are allowing the University of Minnesota to be more selective about the students it admits to its Twin Cities campus.

The Gophers still play in the Big Ten but one U of M executive says "We're in a different league than we were before."

Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, tells the Minnesota Daily: “Over the last 20 years, we’ve shifted from what I would call a safety school … to a destination for high-quality students.”

The Daily reports the university received more than 44,000 freshman applications last fall, which is more than two-and-a-half times the level of a decade earlier.

That's led to a drop in the proportion of applicants who are admitted – from 74 percent down to 44 percent.

University leaders sound more focused on the high-caliber academic talent arriving on campus than on the larger number of students getting rejected. McMaster tells the Daily competing for better students is something that should make the university proud.

President Eric Kaler says it will encourage high school students who hope to attend the U of M to aim higher. “This needs to be an aspirational place for good students in Minnesota,” he tells the campus paper.

The rise in applications is not unique to the U of M. MPR News reported last week that it's common among the state's colleges and has been building for years.

Macalester College, for example, was getting 1,100 applications per year in 1983. Last year it received 6,000. During that time the acceptance rate fell from 83 percent to 37 percent.

MPR says the college application process has become simpler since it moved online, fueling the trend toward high school students applying to more schools. A Lakeville teenager who will enroll at the U of M this fall told the network she applied to 11 colleges and knows people who applied to as many as 20.

Of course, there's still the pesky question of how to pay for higher education. The U of M's Kaler (right) was on Capitol Hill Thursday to talk about exactly that.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken invited Kaler to speak to a committee looking at how much support the states are providing to higher education.

As MinnPost reports, Kaler testified that between 1999 and 2011 Minnesota's spending on higher ed declined by 48 percent. He says some of that has been recovered since then, but with ups and downs along the way.

Find a transcript of Kaler's testimony here.

If college applications are in your future, here are some tips from The College Board.

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