Wednesday, April 01, 2009

College roulette

Yesterday's New York Times and today's Washington Post feature stories on what's new and what's not in the annual spring ritual of college admissions. The Times story discusses the increased importance of a fat wallet, or an applicant's ability to pay the actual retail price of tuition, room and board, in getting accepted into private, selective colleges and, in some cases, their public counterparts. The Times also maintains an excellent blog on the business side of higher education, including how colleges make admissions decisions, award financial aid, compete with other institutions and allocate their resources.

The Post story focuses on the impact that the recession is having on the number of applications that private colleges are receiving this year and the corresponding rise in yield rates -- the number of students admitted as a percentage of all applications -- in order to maintain the class sizes necessary to sustain their operating budgets. Universities with large endowments can usually weather the storm during difficult times and generally don't have to make many adjustments in their admissions decisions. But for universities like American (and we are not alone), which is somewhere between 90-95% tuition driven, the need to admit and retain students takes on a greater importance in times like these. The Post reports that our applications are down 1%, which makes us, along with Howard University, the only school in the greater D.C. area (although the University of Virginia is included here). In fairness to American, though, last year was a record-setting year for the number of applications received. The 1% drop is actually meaningless. The bigger question is whether we have the resources to admit the students we would most like to have, or whether, as the Times article suggests, we will have to admit students we'd rather not based on their ability to pay the approximately $50,000 it will cost to attend American next year.

No comments: