Survey: Admission directors increasingly favor ‘full-pay’ students

September 21, 2011

With revenue declining, college admission officials are looking harder for students who can pay full fare, according to a survey released today by Inside Higher Ed.

The 2011 Survey of College and University Admission Directors finds evidence that admission committees are not being quite so holistic — or impartial — as they claim.

Among all four-year colleges, the admission strategy “judged most important over the next two years” was to recruit more out-of-state students, a group that typically pays sharply higher tuition at public institutions. Private institutions don’t charge higher tuition to out-of-state students but do rely on international students, who often come from wealthy families and pay the full cost of attendance.

The survey found that recruiting larger numbers of “full-pay” students, those who receive no financial aid, was viewed as a “key goal” at public institutions. Providing aid for low-income students was cited as a lower priority.

Dozens of colleges profess on their Web sites to a policy of admitting students without regard to financial need. Yet, the Inside Higher Ed survey found that 10 percent of four-year colleges reported admitting full-pay students with lower grades and test scores than other admitted students.

Roughly one-quarter of admission directors reported pressure from someone — college administrators, trustees or fund-raisers — to admit a student irrespective of her or his qualifications to attend. Admission preferences made big news recently two years ago at the University of Illinois.

Even at community colleges, a sector known for full access, one-third of admission directors said admitting full-pay students was “an important strategy.” Two-thirds said their central focus remains serving students who lack financial resources.

One-fifth of admission directors reported using commission-based agents to recruit international students, a practice that is widely regarded as unethical. Nearly half said they believed such agents help their clients fabricate information, such as admission essays written by others.

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