Anu Subramaniam / Sun News Editor

Cornell University received $3.5 million in application fees last year

February 1, 2019

Cornell Received $3.5 Million in 2018 Application Fees, Highest Among Ivy League Schools

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Cornell University received $3.5 million in application fees last year, the interim vice president for enrollment told The Sun — placing it 13th out of the 500 schools that receive the most revenue from application fees.

Cornell banked more money from application fees than any other Ivy League school, a report by financial comparison service LendEDU found. Cornell also received the most applications among the eight schools.

“For the new students that enrolled in spring and fall 2018 (freshman, transfer, and visiting), the university received approximately 57,000 applications,” said Jason Locke, interim vice provost for enrollment, in an email to The Sun. With an application fee of $80, the total potential revenue was more than $4.5 million, Locke said.

“Cornell waived close to $1.1 million in application fees. So the $3.5 million figure is about right,” Locke told The Sun.

According to Locke, Cornell uses application fees to cover costs for “processing and managing applications,” personnel needed to review applications and “special outreach initiatives,” such as developing social media platforms to reach prospective students.

For the 2018 application cycle, the application fee for Cornell was $80. Yale University and Dartmouth College had the same price, while Columbia University charged $85. Brown University, Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania charged $75.

Cornell received more applications during the 2018 cycle than any other Ivy League school. According to the date from LendEDU, Yale received around 31,000 applications, Dartmouth 21,000 and Harvard around 39,000.

Locke said that the Undergraduate Admissions Office reviews the cost of processing and managing applications every five to seven years.

“If the costs are rising at a rate that is outpacing application fees, Undergraduate Admissions proposes a fee change,” he said.

The application fee has increased $15 since 1998 in order to “offset increases in costs” of reviewing the thousands of applications Cornell receives each year, Locke said.

Locke said that he does not believe this fee has any impact on applicants due to the fact that Cornell waives fees for students based on need.

He said that The Common Application — an online application program that processes over four million total student applications per year — has streamlined the process of waiving fees, which has resulted in an increase in fee waivers.

Prof. Evan Riehl, economics, voiced concern that even the process of applying for a fee waiver may stop some students from applying to schools with application fees.

“There is research suggesting that these types of things can really matter in whether people apply,” Riehl said. “Just the fact that it’s an extra thing to do and to be aware of is probably disadvantaging some lower socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Riehl warned that application fees pressure students into only applying to a few schools because it’s too costly to apply to more.

“That perception is going to be more dominant among lower-income people … It’s going to skew the distribution of applicants towards students from wealthier families,” he said.

Some schools like Smith College and Colby College have removed the application fee completely.

Riehl also advocated for a “system-wide” change in the process to “make these sorts of things as easy as possible” by providing more information to students from lower-income families and students who have limited help when filling out college applications.

When asked about removing the fee, Locke said that “Cornell works hard to remove barriers in the process. I am not aware of any peer institutions that have dropped the application fee.”