January 27, 2011

Applications to C.U. Stagnate as Growth Continues at Other Ivy Schools

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Despite a surge in applications for other Ivy League schools, the number of high school students applying to Cornell remained relatively flat for the Class of 2015, according to information released by the University’s Undergraduate Admissions Office on Jan. 26.

An estimated 36,273 students submitted applications this year — an increase of 128 applicants, or less than one percent, from last year — according to Jason Locke, director of undergraduate admissions. Previously, application totals typically increased 5 to 10 percent per year.

Locke said even though the number of applications has not increased dramatically, the fact that it has not decreased reflected high school students’ continued interest in Cornell.

“[That] Cornell has continued … to maintain its increases from the past decade speaks to the fact that prospective students and families recognize the value of a Cornell education,” Locke stated in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, many of the University’s peer institutions reported double-digit growth in application numbers.

Columbia saw a 32-percent increase in applicants this year after its admissions office switched to the Common Application. At Harvard and Dartmouth, applications rose 15 percent and 15.7 percent, respectively. The University of Pennsylvania also saw a 15-percent increase, while Yale reported a 5-percent rise.

Cornell was the last Ivy to formally announce its applicant pool total.

Although Cornell’s increase was not as much compared to other Ivies, Locke noted that the compared to other Ivies, Locke noted that the University’s selectivity rate has skyrocketed in the past decade. In 2000, Cornell received 20,199 applications, resulting in an acceptance rate of 30 percent. Since then, the number of applications has nearly doubled in the past decade, leading in part to an admission rate of 18 percent last year.

“We’ve increased the number of applications by 74 percent over the past decade,” Locke said.

Locke attributed the increase in applications during the past 10 years to the University’s “sweeping changes” on its financial aid policies. Last fall, Day Hall announced the University would match financial aid offered by other Ivies in an effort to increase the yield total.

The vast increase in applications has been a national phenomena at top schools as applicants are applying to even more colleges.

Locke said that Cornell’s applicant pool increase is correlated to the increase in the “overall number of high school graduates,” a trend that he said the media labeled a “baby boomlet.”

But according to William Shain, an educational consultant and former dean of admissions at Vanderbilt and Bowdoin, the growth in applications is not due to “the number of high school seniors increasing,” but due to the fact that students are “just applying to more schools.”

“It isn’t even necessarily anything Cornell hasn’t done … there aren’t more bodies, there are more applications per body,” Shain said.

Admissions offices are under a lot of pressure to “inflate” the applicant totals, he added, in order to increase selectivity and maintain a decent credit rating.

Shain explained that “the admissions statistics are related to the bond rating,” and universities sell bonds to fund building projects. This creates a potential conflict of interest because institutions can decrease their cost of borrowing by inflating their applicant totals.

Today, many universities “are acting like a business” by trying to “maximize the numbers and statistics,” Shain said.

Shain also attributed today’s admissions frenzy to deans of admissions paying more attention to outside publications such as U.S. News & World Report.

The Cornell’s admissions office received 3,456 applications for early decision, a slight decrease of 4 percent from the previous year.

The University will announce regular application decisions April 1.

Original Author: Max Schindler