Northwestern University officials say the school has scored a big gain in the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll at the school.

The enrollment yield for this fall’s class is 38.7 percent, up from 33.5 percent last year and 30.9 percent two years ago.

“The striking jump in yield is all the more impressive when you consider that the vast majority of our students were also admitted to several other elite private schools and, thus, had wonderful choices,” Mike Mills, associate provost for university enrollment, said in a news release.

The jump in the yield followed a 25 percent increase in early decision applications of students who took themselves off the market to commit to only Northwestern if accepted.

And the total number of applications — 30,975 — was 12 percent higher than last year and nearly double the number received in fall 2005. Only 18 percent of applicants were admitted this year, versus 23.10 percent last year.

And 99 of the 2,149 students enrolled in the Class of 2015 are Chicago-area residents who are the first to benefit from the Good Neighbor, Great University program. Designed to make Northwestern more affordable to talented, but economically challenged students from Evanston and Chicago, the program was initiated by NU President Morton Schapiro.

Schapiro says doing as much as possible to bring homegrown talent into the Northwestern family has been a top priority during the two years he has been leading Northwestern. That process has helped to achieve another top priority the enrollment of classes as diverse as they are capable.

The Class of 2015 represents 50 states and 32 countries; 7.2 percent of the students are African American, up from 6.9 percent last year; 9 percent are Hispanic, up from 8.2 percent last year.

Seven percent are international students; 7 percent are multilingual; and 19 percent come from families who are first-generation Americans. Ninety-one percent of the admitted students were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and 14 percent are Pell Grant recipients.

The strategic process now underway to articulate Northwestern’s comparative advantages and serve as a blueprint for a forthcoming capital campaign amplifies one of the University’s biggest draws — its intense focus on undergraduate education. Northwestern has carved out a niche as an elite research university that is “obsessed” with providing a broad, rich undergraduate education.

Mills argues that part of Northwestern’s uniqueness stems from the existence of six undergraduate schools, rather than one or two, which is the norm at most of Northwestern’s peer schools. Northwestern, he said, has “a culture of cross-school collaboration between faculty and students that you just don’t see at a lot of other places.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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