Clashes of Money and Values: A Survey of Admissions Directors

Admissions counselors like to talk about finding the right "fit" for applicants — a great match between a student’s educational and other goals and an institution’s programs. But a new survey of the senior admissions officials at colleges nationwide finds that this "fit" is, from many colleges’ point of view, increasingly about money. As evidence of that pressure, the survey found that:

  • For many colleges, a top goal of admissions directors is recruiting more students who can pay more. Among all four-year institutions, the admissions strategy judged most important over the next two or three years — driven by high figures in the public sector — was the recruitment of more out-of-state students (who at public institutions pay significantly more). The runner-up was the strategy of providing more aid for low- and middle-income students.
  • Among all sectors of higher education, there is a push to recruit more out-of-state students and international students. 
  • Recruiting more "full-pay" students — those who don’t need financial aid — is seen as a key goal in public higher education, a sector traditionally known for its commitment to access. At public doctoral and master’s institutions, more admissions directors cited the recruitment of full-pay students as a key strategy than cited providing aid for low-income students. (At doctoral institutions, the gap was 47 percent to 40 percent, and at master’s institutions, the gap was 45 percent to 38 percent). 
  • The interest in full-pay students is so strong that 10 percent of four-year colleges report that the full-pay students they are admitting have lower grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants. 
  • At community colleges, a focus on serving students who don’t have money remains central, with 66 percent of admissions directors citing that as a key strategy — more than cited any other strategy. But even in that sector, a notable minority (34 percent) said that an important strategy for the institution was attracting more full-pay students.

Inside Higher Ed is releasing the survey results today, as admissions leaders nationwide prepare to travel to New Orleans for the annual meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Admissions directors were given full anonymity to encourage frank answers.

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INSIDE HIGHER ED

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