Private Colleges See Applications Decline as Economy Crumbles

As admissions officers sift through applications this spring, some schools’ choices may be more limited than they were last year.

Many private colleges – especially top liberal arts schools – saw declines in application numbers this year, which admissions experts attribute to both the economic downturn and a natural fluctuation in the admissions cycle.

Application numbers declined by 20 percent at Williams College, 12 percent at Middlebury College and 10 percent at Swarthmore College.

By contrast, Ivy League institutions did not see any significant declines.

In fact, Penn was the only Ivy League school whose application numbers went down overall, and the decrease was only 90 applications.

Colleges typically worry about declines in applications because it inflates their acceptance rate. U.S. News ‘amp; World Report factors in acceptance rates when determining rankings, according to the magazine’s Web site.

Michele Hernandez, president of Hernandez College Consulting, noted that ‘of course the economy affects the numbers of applicants at expensive top-tier liberal arts schools,’ but explained that some change is normal from year to year.

‘It’s good to keep in mind that applications have gone up just about every year for the past 10 to 15 years, so it’s not unusual to see small drops to make up for the gains,’ she said.

For example, she explained, applications at Williams were up ‘a tremendous amount last year,’ so the drop this year is not so much a decline as a ‘stabilization.’

Michael Chimes, director of college guidance at the Gill St. Bernard’s School in New Jersey, has noticed this trend as well.

He stressed that ‘families are nervous about their economic futures, and the price tags of the more expensive private institutions, like Penn, are very intimidating.’
In terms of the trend’s possible impact on Penn, Hernandez suspects the biggest effect will be in the school’s yield this year.

‘Some students might get accepted but not be able to attend,’ she said. She predicts more waitlist activity this year than in previous years.

Most regular-decision admissions decisions will be released at the end of the month. Penn, as well as the other Ivy League schools, will post decisions online on March 31.

When asked by The Minaret, Brent Benner, UT admissions director said numbers were not available as to how many prospective students have applied to UT and if the number of applications have increased or decreased in the past year.

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