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Applications for Admission and Financial Aid Both Increase

October 30, 2009

The 2009 State of College Admission report, newly released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), shows that the number of high school graduates reached a peak of 3.33 million in academic year 2008-09. As a consequence, approximately 75 percent of four-year colleges and universities reported one-year increases in their numbers of admissions applications from prospective freshmen.

The average selectivity rate-the percentage of applicants offered admission to postsecondary institutions-at four-year colleges and universities in the United States was 67 percent for Fall 2007. The average institutional yield rate-the percentage of admitted students who enrolled-was 45 percent.  Colleges and universities spend, on average, $2,383 to recruit each newly enrolled student.

The report underscores the many ways in which the current economic crisis has affected the admissions process. For example, more than two-thirds of high school counseling departments-important players in the college admissions process-reported budget cuts in 2009-10, and 59 percent had budgets frozen. According to the report, public high schools were more likely than independent ones to report larger budget cuts. At the same time, larger enrollments have prompted many high schools to increase the ratio of students to guidance counselors.

The economic crisis is affecting students' choices of postsecondary institutions as well. Nearly 60 percent of high schools responding indicated an increase in the number of students planning to enroll in public versus private colleges. In addition, 37 percent reported an increase in the number planning to enroll in community college versus a four-year college, and 15 percent saw more students planning to delay entry into postsecondary education for financial reasons. Students are giving up their "dream schools" and turning to more affordable options.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of colleges that contributed to the report (90%) experienced an increase in financial aid applications-and they responded. Three out of four colleges reported increases in the number of students offered institutional grant aid and in the total institutional grant aid awarded (74% and 76%, respectively). Additionally, 68 percent offered self-help aid (work-study and/or loans) to more students, and 62 percent increased the average loan amount.

The report finds that the factors used by admission officers to evaluate applications remain largely unchanged over the past 15 years. The most important factors relate to students' academic achievements, including grades, strength of curriculum, and admission test scores.

About one in five colleges (21%) revoked an admission offer during the Fall 2008 admission cycle, compared with 35 percent in 2007. The most common reasons cited for rescinding admission offers were final grades (65%), disciplinary issues (35%), and falsification of application information (29%).