Delaware State Representative Ruth Briggs-King is demanding answers from the University of Delaware (UD) over the low number of in-state enrollment after the institution’s President said they need “better-qualified students” during a Joint Finance Committee meeting.
University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis made the controversial remarks during a Joint Finance Committee hearing earlier this month where he was questioned by legislators, including Rep. Briggs-King, after it became clear that the number of in-state students that are accepted and enrolled is lower than that who come from out-of-state.
“We were consistently asking ‘tell us how many Delaware students you have compared to out-of-state,’ and he has a lot more out-of-state students, and we feel that it’s because the University gets more money from out-of-state, they pay more,” Rep. Briggs-King said. “His comment was they would love to take every Delaware student who come to them, but so many of the students just aren’t prepared for the University-level work. And that didn’t go over well with many educators in the state.”
UD still technically considers itself a private institution but yet it receives millions in funding from the state annually.
Assanis blamed the lack of in-state students on the state’s education system, saying “I am not the one holding back the kids in Delaware to come into the university,” the News Journal reported. “We need better-qualified students who come out of our K-12. Because we don’t want to put them into a first-class environment and then lead them to having mental health problems.”
Since his comments, Assanis has tried to backpedal his remarks, according to Rep. Briggs-King, who is now demanding the numbers.
“I’ve asked them to provide me some numbers,” Rep. Briggs-King said. “I want to know the number of Delaware students that applied, the number of students that you accepted by district, and the number completed their first semester. So, there’s still a little bit of tension.”
Assanis’ comments sparked outrage among education leaders across the state, including Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele, who did not hold back in an interview with WGMD’s Mike Bradley, strongly condemning his statements, calling it “ridiculous” and “ludicrous.”
“The fact that he makes the statement that he made, I just think it’s ridiculous,” Steele said vehemently. “I just think it’s ludicrous and I don’t think he has a clue what he’s talking about.”
Following his comments, Assanis issued editorial letters to most major news outlets in Delaware in an attempt to clarify his comments and provide further information on the issue, saying the in-state acceptance rate “is far above our out-of-state acceptance rate of 68%.”
“At the hearing, legislators expressed concern about the percentage of UD undergraduates who are from Delaware; I want to ensure that everyone has the facts,” Assanis wrote. “UD accepts all Delawareans whom we believe can succeed at our university. This amounts to an acceptance of nearly 90% of the Delawareans who apply as first-year students, admitting them to either our main campus or our Associate in Arts program. UD’s enrollment of Delaware undergraduates is at a record high of 7,480, which is up 16% over the past decade.”
Recently, UD refused to participate in a Procurement Card (PCard) audit conducted by the State Auditor’s Office that would have looked into the institution’s finances.