Has the economy affected college admissions offices?
Certainly not a badly as they’d like you to believe it has!
Certainly not as badly as they’d like you to believe it has!
During these tough economic times, everybody wants to save their pennies; colleges are no exception. Almost all colleges are halting their large projects, but some colleges believe the smaller cutbacks will most likely prove most influential on the future of college life. The following – reported in the New York Times – serves as proof that the little things really do add up.
Virtual Swim Meet?
Dickinson College (PA) competed with Bryn Mawr College (PA), located 112 physical miles away from each other without ever leaving their respective campuses. Each team swam in their home pool and then compared times to determine the winners.
Cleaning is a vicious cycle…
Some schools are reducing cleaning standards. Oberlin College (Ohio) scaled back on window washing.
Pitzer College (CA) power washes sidewalks and windows once a year instead of twice.
Savings: not reported
Carleton College (MN) has office trash picked up only once a week instead of every day.
Savings: whatever it is, it’s most likely not worth it!
One Can Always Hope for Perks
At the University of Washington, telephone landlines no longer exist in faculty offices. Members of the faculty are encouraged to use their cell phones or the landlines in common areas.
Savings: $1,100 a month
Cornell College (IA) decided not to upgrade the telephone system since most students rely on cell phones.
Dickinson cut back on free laundry service and removed free ESPN and HBO from student rooms
Savings: $150,000 and $75,000 (respectively)
Whittier College (CA) cut one day of new student orientation.
Whitman College (WA) limits free printing for students to $60 a semester.
Savings: not reported
Whittier College instituted “Trayless Tuesdays” – an initiative to cut back on hot-water and detergent costs by not using trays. Lo and behold food waste also dropped from 7.4 oz per student to 4.6 oz. Soon after, Whittier went completely trayless.
The College of Wooster (OH) shut down one dining hall, leaving one in operation to service the entire campus.
Washington and Jefferson College (PA) even cut back on the trustee meals. Instead of serving breakfast at meetings the trustees are given cafeteria passes.
Savings: not entirely clear
At Davidson College (NC) students are cold in their dorm rooms and overheated outside. The college started the “chill out” program which saves money on heating costs by turning down thermostats.
Savings: not reported
At the same time, Davidson serves tap water instead of bottled water at campus events
The small and subtle changes will surely change college life more than any salary cut. All the little things add up and can change the way of life on college campuses for a long time to come.
There is nothing unaffected by the economy, and that includes admissions offices. Depending on the need policies in place and the amount of a college’s endowment, a college has to make some tough decisions about admissions. Even when schools are need-blind in regular admissions, they are sometimes need-aware when it comes to transfers. In the case of international students, they are under no obligation to award financial aid so some people believe that those students might be at a competitive advantage (especially with colleges seeking geographic diversity). As far as admissions departments themselves, they may well see slashes in budgets, which could mean less mailing and less travel. Fortunately, the use of social media has become more prevalent, allowing colleges to stay in close touch with the market.
Absolutely. Travel budgets have been cut, meaning less school visits made. Applications numbers may have increased, but the number of staff to read them hasn’t. Those expensive glossy brochures are quickly being replaced by social media sites and the web. Some offices have had to scale back their accepted student day festivities. Other schools have felt the pressure to admit students who don’t require as much financial aid. The recession is being felt everywhere on campuses.
Oh, of course. I’m only coming at this from the standpoint of an independent consultant (I haven’t worked in admissions since before the recession), but it’s not too hard to do a bit of inductive reasoning and come to some (admittedly not-so-nuanced) conclusions:
1. Public institutions are opening their doors to more out-of-staters and international students (read: revenue streams) than ever before. Most UCs used to be a slam dunk for the students with whom I worked. Not anymore. Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia were all shockingly selective with my applicants. Not anymore.
2. Mid-level privates are suffering, and they’re throwing the doors open to full-pays. “Mid-level private,” FYI, does not mean a school like USC or Wake Forest. It means your local Catholic college (with the exceptions of ND, BC, and Georgetown) and most regional private schools. Why? Because what Washington resident, for instance, would want to go to Seattle U. (no offense…a great school in its own right) for $50k per year when she could attend UW for half the cost?
3. The CHYMPS schools, as well as the remainder of the top 15 or so, are as selective as ever. Why? I think it’s because students are applying in a polar way: They’re putting their money on either their state school (for the tuition break) or the sweatshirt school (with the hope that the price tag will be worth it), with not much stock given to the schools in the middle. It’s this behavior that leads to both of the issues above, as well.
In recruitment, the economic downturn has forced colleges and universities to do more with less. Admissions offices, like all higher education departments, are expected to keep budgets as trim as possible. However, with development officers struggling to replace endowment losses, colleges rely more heavily on enrollment for annual operational budgets. Some strategies that colleges have employed: tuition increases, reduce tuition discount rate, shifting to a financial “need aware” admission process, adjusting in-state and out-of-state enrollment targets, and using scholarships to improve student enrollment.
Like pretty much every aspect of our society, the college admission process has been impacted by the recent economic downturn. However, it has not had as large an impact as many think. Indeed, there have always been variations in how different schools have treated the admissions and the financial aid processes, and while the financial side of things have certainly been impacted by the recent economic difficulties, the fundamental approach of admissions offices have not really changed. A few schools that were pursuing wholly need blind admissions policies have had to pullback from that approach given reductions in their financial aid budgets coupled with greater needs, but beyond that the economy has not fundamentally altered the admissions landscape. Ultimately the changes that have occurred—admittedly changes that can impact significantly the decision that an applicant makes–have occurred less in the admissions offices than in the financial aid office, but of course, in the end, they are part of an interconnected process.
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