A record number of applications have flooded the admissions offices at four of Virginia's five major state-supported colleges and universities this year, according to admissions officers, continuing a recent trend.

Applications for next fall's freshman class have increased this year by an average of 11 percent at the University of Virginia, William and Mary, James Madison and George Mason, with much of the increase coming from out of state, officials at those schools said.

At Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the number of applicants has remained at last year's level of about 15,600. Karen Bishop, assistant director of admissions at Virginia Tech, attributed the leveling off to unfavorable publicity about the school's athletic program and the subsequent resignation of the college's president and vice president.

Elsewhere in the state, though, "we're seeing a double-whammy effect," said James Alessio, assistant director for research and information at the Virginia Council of Higher Education. "We've had an increase in the numbers of high school graduates, starting last year, plus there's a documented increase of interest in college among high school students."

The number of state residents applying for admission to the 2,535-member freshman class at U-Va. next fall has remained at last year's level of 5,700, according to the school's admissions office. The university reserves about 1,660 slots for in-state residents. The 11,200 out-of-state applicants must compete for about 875 places set aside for them.

Asked about the increase in applications, Dean of Admissions John Blackburn said, "The only conclusion that I can draw is that the University of Virginia continues to increase its visibility and popularity at the national level."

Admissions officials elsewhere attributed the increase in out-of-state applications to the praise Virginia state schools have received in several recent college guides.

"We're becoming more national in our scope," said Alan Cerveny, admissions director at James Madison University, which had the largest increase, 16 percent.

"I think it's had an impact not only on our out-of-state applications, but our in-staters, too," said Gary Ripple, dean of admissions at William and Mary. "If the college is suddenly the subject of a hot new book, you get spinoffs in-state, too."

There is also evidence that high school students are applying to more colleges than they once did, according to Alessio.

Lawrence Grove, associate dean of admissions at U-Va., said that is particularly true in more affluent suburban areas such as Northern Virginia.

"I sense in talking to high school counselors in the good high schools that there are more applications per student," he said. "There is a great deal of interest in going to a 'hot' college."

Grove added that the "yield" -- the proportion of accepted students who actually enroll -- has continued to hold up despite the multiple-application trend. "About 60 percent of our in-state students accept admission, and about 45 percent of our out-of-staters," he said.

Other officials reported that their "yields" have remained constant as well.

"One of the concerns in Virginia has been that Virginians were being denied places {in state schools} because of out-of-state students," said Alessio, whose office released a report in December on state college and university admissions policies.

There have also been charges, which university officials deny, that U-Va. has an unwritten quota system for students from Northern Virginia.

Alessio's report showed that while Fairfax County, for instance, produced 17 percent of the state's high school graduates last year, its students composed 29 percent of in-state freshmen at U-Va., 30 percent at James Madison, 29 percent at William and Mary, and 26 percent at Virginia Tech.

Grove defended the university's policy of reserving 35 percent of its places for out-of-state students. "If we were to serve only Virginians it would be too parochial," he said.

State colleges and universities will notify applicants by April 1. Students make their decisions by May 1.



School................... 1985...... 1986...... 1987...... 1988

University of Virginia... 14,099....16,227......15,688.....16,914

George Mason University... 2,300.....2,650.......4,697....


Virginia Tech............ 13,084....13,878......15,620...


William and Mary.......... 6,097.....6,511.......9,187......9,909

James Madison University.. 9,732....11,156......11,663...


Incomplete total as of Feb. 5, 1988.

Approximate total.

SOURCE: College and university admissions offices.