Glitches in the rollout of a new version of the Common App have posed unexpected hurdles for many students seeking admission to selective colleges, and for the counselors and teachers who are supporting them — detailed in this Washington Post article Tuesday and in numerous other media reports. Some college admissions offices, too, have complained about difficulties in connecting their computer systems to the new Common App software.
One reader wrote Tuesday to ask The Post to take a closer look at the Common App.
“You might want to consider looking further into this organization,” he wrote. “It has a virtual lock on the application process, must make tons of money, and nobody really knows who ‘they’ are. How much do they make? Who’s the President? Who’s on the Board? Lots of disappointed parents would be interested to know.”
The Post article noted that the Common App, which serves 517 member colleges and universities, is run by a nonprofit organization based in Arlington.
The 2011 federal tax return for the Common Application Inc. contains no major revelations. Annual revenues are about $13 million, most of which comes from application fees. No one draws a big salary. The executive director, Rob Killion, oversees a small staff — about eight paid employees, as of this fall — and contractors who help run the program.
The board of directors, listed on this Web site, comprises admissions officers and college counselors. The president is Thyra Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College in California. The president-elect is Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania. Also on the board is Greg Roberts, dean of admissions at the University of Virginia.
Common App officials said they plan to expand their staff by mid-2014, bringing in-house some functions now provided by Hobsons Inc., based in Cincinnati. Hobsons also runs the Naviance college-planning service, widely used in high schools, as well as the online forum College Confidential.
For the Common App, founded in 1975, the spotlight on glitches — with students getting frozen out of their work or getting billed multiple times for a single application, among other issues — is a painful twist to what officials had hoped would be a story about an improved version of their online form. Version 4 is designed to be cleaner and simpler, while giving colleges essentially the same amount of information about an applicant that they have always received. The hope was — and remains — that a smoother application would help improve access to the nation’s most selective institutions, especially for students who are the first in their families to go to college.