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Monday, November 2, 2015
The Back-Side of Competitive College Admissions
As every admissions cycle closes its lap around the track, we hear the same, familiar refrain. The low admissions rates. Hand-wringing ensues. How can Stanford accept fewer than seven percent of applying students? How can anyone be expected to succeed?
UCLA's 2015 acceptance rate was around 17%, which sounds far better than 7%, until you consider the fact that UCLA received a record number of applications for that cycle-112,000. The odds are not good.
Yet, from the perspective of the universities, the view is very different. They are, in fact, having a tough time filling seats.
In its annual Survey of College and University Admission Directors, Inside Higher Education (IHE) reported that more than half of the 264 admission directors polled, responded that they had not met their enrollment targets. More than 75% of the respondents blamed these falling numbers on increasingly crippling student debt.
The survey raises some interesting questions about recruitment techniques. Most colleges seem to be averse to the idea of loosening admission requirements. Put simply, colleges continue to feel most comfortable relying on traditional metrics of achievements, such as test scores and grades. Coming up with unconventional evaluative methodology in order to cast a wider net of potential students was not a popular option-even set against the backdrop of empty seats.
Like most businesses, the surveyed directors favored an approach focused on the bottom line. Recruiting out-of-state and foreign students who are required to pay higher tuition. Sweetening the deal for those students offers promise for the universities' financial health, without sacrificing 'reputation'.
The prospect isn't promising for all but the top-performing local students seeking admissions to universities close to home. It is complicated by a competitive job market, and students graduating with crippling student loan debt.
Only time will tell whether long-term reform is in the cards.
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