BY OLIVIA ROSS, STAFF WRITER
Bellarmine isn’t your average Kentucky college and that’s why students come here. They want a unique learning experience with small class sizes and a college with high academic expectations to set them apart when they enter the job market. However, some students now question how much weight a degree from Bellarmine holds. The requirements for admissions have given the university its elite reputation in Louisville, but over the past few years those requirements have changed drastically.
After trying to obtain acceptance rates from the admissions office for weeks, The Concord finally received some numbers. These numbers were conflicting, though, as they were nowhere near what the Department of Education had on record.
The lack of transparency with the admissions department has led to some uneasy feelings. The student body deserves to know what the requirements and reputation of its school are.
Some students feel it is hard for the university to maintain its reputation if its acceptance rates are growing higher each year. The price tag on a Bellarmine education, which costs about $51,000 per year including tuition and room and board before financial aid according to the Bellarmine web site, means the school should maintain an above-average reputation and should admit only students who can prove that they have the means to succeed at BU.
“Accepting so many new students hurts the value of past graduates’ degrees because their degree from a selective school at the time is now a degree from what could be considered a ‘safe school’ when people apply to college,” said Hunter Collins, a 2016 Bellarmine graduate.
Just this year, according to the Bellarmine admissions page, “…students who possess a 21 ACT or a 990 SAT, have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average in a college prep curriculum, and are ranked in the top 50% of their class are generally admitted.”
According to the Department of Education, 5,631 people applied and 4,696 of them were admitted, which is an 83 percent admissions rate. In 2013, the university admitted 95 percent of applicants. Those numbers are far too high for a school that has a prestigious academic reputation.
Bellarmine alum Erin Chalmers, who graduated in 2004, believes a Bellarmine degree is just as valuable as it has always been. She said that at her current job she places “a lot more value on a degree from Bellarmine then I would from, say, University of Louisville, because I know how much more rigorous the curriculum is.”
Alumni like Chalmers who graduated over 10 years ago feel a stronger sense of pride in their degrees. Students currently attending Bellarmine feel like their degrees are losing value. With larger class sizes, lower requirements and higher acceptance rates, not only does a student’s degree feel cheapened, but also the experience at Bellarmine is changing.
“What used to be known as a school for the elite is now less special,” Bellarmine senior McKayla Chandler said. “With more students there is a higher ratio of students to professors and that’s the opposite of what drew me to Bellarmine.”
The growth of the school is great, and with the 2020 plan, admission rates were expected to rise because the plan calls for more students. In the long run, Bellarmine should expand and open its doors wider. Students are what keep a private institution in business. But lowering expectations so quickly won’t do anything to help the school become what former BU president Dr. Joseph McGowan envisioned.
With the admissions rate rising and the requirements falling, it is becoming harder and harder to see what sets Bellarmine apart from any other college in the area, especially those with significantly lower costs. For Bellarmine to uphold its reputation as a school that gives students an elite private education with small class sizes and justify the cost of tuition, it must increase its expectations for admission to the university.