Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

College enrollment falls as economy recovers

Christopher Sauer and Cassidy Eymard, student workers, move beds at Loyola University New Orleans, which was forced to make large budget cuts. William Widmer, New York Times/Courtesy photo

By Richard Pérez-Peña

The long enrollment boom that swelled American colleges — and helped drive up their prices — is over, with grim implications for many schools.

College enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s, but nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges; now, signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years.

The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery.

Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.

“There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” said David A. Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which has more than 1,000 member colleges.

The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions most likely will get easier.

Colleges fear that their high prices and the concern over rising student debt are turning people away, and on Wednesday, President Obama again challenged them to rein in tuition increases. Colleges have resorted to deeper discounts and accelerated degree programs. In all, the four-year residential college experience as a presumed rite of passage for middle-class students is coming under scrutiny.

The most striking signs of change came from Loyola University New Orleans and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. After the usual May 1 deadline for applicants to choose a college, Loyola and St. Mary’s each found that their admission offers had been accepted by about one-third fewer students than expected. Both institutions were forced to make millions of dollars in budget cuts and a late push for more enrollment.

Loyola made a flurry of calls to students who had been accepted but had decided to go elsewhere, and had even paid deposits to other colleges. Professors and administrators who usually are not involved in the process made calls, along with the admissions officers, “and we did invite them to see if there was more we could do with aid,” said Roberta Kaskel, the interim vice president for enrollment management.

Many colleges traditionally round out their classes with a small number of students admitted after May 1, often taken from their waiting lists, and miscalculations as big or as damaging as those by St. Mary’s and Loyola are rare. But consultants hired by families to help with the admissions process say that this spring and summer, they have seen more colleges actively hunting for students, reaching out to those who had turned them down, or even to students who had never applied.

“After May 1, I got e-mails from three or four colleges saying, ‘We’ve still got spots, and we’re looking for people to fill them,’ and I don’t remember getting any in the past,” said Lisa Bleich, an admissions consultant in Westfield, N.J.

“I had a client who had committed to one school, and then changed her mind and said she wanted to go to the University of Pittsburgh, where she had also been accepted,” she said. “They weren’t actively looking for more, but they agreed to take her, when a few years ago, they would have said, ‘No, we don’t have any space.’ ”

This summer, Randolph College in Virginia sent letters to students who had not applied but had strong academic credentials, saying that they had “been selected for admission” in the fall, and offering them financial aid. Randolph’s case is unusual, in that it is expanding, but it shows the lengths colleges will go to, to meet their enrollment targets.

“This is the first time we’ve tried this particular approach,” said Mike Quinn, the vice president for enrollment management. “Sometimes offering these qualified students a more generous grant will prompt them to start a conversation with us.”

Don McMillan, an admissions consultant in Boston, said his office fielded calls this week from families in Saudi Arabia and Italy, hoping to find their children places for a school year that, in some cases, is just a month away.

“We called about 15 colleges, and we found that about half still had openings for this fall and were willing to consider them, which really surprised me,” he said. “These are not Tufts, MIT, Harvard, schools like that, that will never have trouble filling up.”

College attendance grew slowly for more than two decades, until it began a steep climb from 15.2 million in 1999 to 20.4 million in 2011, according to census figures.

Several factors drove that boom: a population bulge increased the number of college-age Americans by about 20 percent; high school graduation rates climbed after years of stagnation; the percentage of recent high school graduates going to college continued an increase that started in the 1980s; and colleges drew a growing number of students from abroad.

The recession that began in 2007 steered still more people into college, especially adults who were past traditional college age and who enrolled in community colleges.

But the number of Americans turning 18 hit its recent peak in 2009, and will continue to decline through 2016. High school graduation rates appear to have leveled off, and job prospects have improved, making school a less attractive option.

Managing a college’s enrollment has become more complicated in recent years as the number of applications submitted by the average student has soared. The advent of online applications, and the Common Application now used by about 500 colleges, has made it much easier to add to a student’s list without much thought.

And colleges have encouraged the increase, barraging promising students with appeals, knowing that more applications means a lower percentage of students accepted, which moves a college up in the popular ranking systems.

“It’s become really hard for colleges to tell which applicants are actually serious about them, and will accept their offers,” said Janet Rosier, an admissions consultant in Woodbridge, Conn.

That is what happened to St. Mary’s, a state college, and Loyola, a Jesuit school where administrators say some visitors might have been dissuaded by extensive construction on campus.

While Loyola made a renewed appeal to people it had already accepted, St. Mary’s simply reopened admissions, and put out word through counselors and community groups. Both colleges have been able to draw more students since May, but their fall classes will still be far short of what they had hoped.

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Elementary school counselors: necessary, but poorly funded

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
    Bet Haverim hosts High Holy Day services

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

     
    Teams assess damage as wildfire burns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Driver arrested for DUI after Saturday morning crash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Help raise funds for juvenile diabetes cure

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Jewelry, art for sale at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Community Meals needs cooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Hawk Hill trip planned Sept. 30

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    UC campus chancellors granted hefty pay raises

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Send kids to camp!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Da Vinci awarded $38,000 for restorative justice program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Outdoor yoga marathon celebrates community

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Wise words

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A12

     
    .

    Forum

    Awareness is key to this fight

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Where is this going?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A6

    We’re living in the Golden State of emergency

    By Debra DeAngelo | From Page: A6

     
    Options for protection come with flu season

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Are we there yet? Not enough hours in the day to goof off

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A6Comments are off for this post

     
    Don’t sell city greenbelt

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Paso Fino project is flawed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Paso Fino — it’s not worth it

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Archer will get my vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    It’s time for Davis Scouts to stand up for what is right

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Mike Keefe cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Building something at schools’ HQ

    By Our View | From Page: A10

    Speak out

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Maybe David can beat Goliath again

    By Lynne Nittler | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Sports

    DHS gets on its Morse to beat Edison

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    JV Blue Devils drop low-scoring affair

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B2

     
    Republic FC’s fairy tale season continues

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Wire briefs: Giants rally falls short in San Diego

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Four local swimmers qualify for Olympic Trials

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    ‘We’re a way better team’ than record, says UCD’s Shaffer

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie men pound Pomona-Pitzer in the pool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B4

    Davis 15-year-old making a splash in European F4 series

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Ladies Foursome’ adds shows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    .

    Business

    UCD grad’s startup earns kudos at TechCrunch event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Styles on target for November debut

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A7

    MBI hires VP of marketing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Taylor Morrison unveils new Woodland community next weekend

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Rob White: What is an ‘innovation center’?

    By Rob White | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, September 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B8