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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Report: Rise in college applications hurts low-income students

By Valerie Strauss

A new report concludes that the dramatic increase in college applications over the past 15 years is creating a rise in selectivity that will reduce opportunities for more low-income, first-generation students in all levels of higher education, including community colleges.

Putting the College Admission ‘Arms Race’ In Context,” being released today by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, says public and private not-for-profit, four-year institutions experienced overall growth in applications of 47 percent and 70 percent, respectively, between 2001 and 2008.

Hispanic-serving institutions had a 111-percent increase in applications during that period, with an annual average increase of 12 percent, which is not surprising given that Hispanic students are the fastest-growing segment of high school graduates.

The rise in applications at community colleges, for-profit institutions and less-selective public institutions appears to be a result of the increasing sizes over the years of graduating high school classes, and there has been growth in the number of applicants who are Hispanic and black, students who are more likely from moderate- and low-income families with less rigorous academic preparation. Many of these institutions have been hard hit by the economic downturn, and research shows that many of these underfunded public schools lack resources to meet the needs of their growing student bodies.

At the more selective schools, applications have been rising apparently because each student is applying to a greater number of schools.

Here are some of the findings in the report:

High School Graduation
• The number of high school graduates in the South increased 20 percent between 2000 and 2007, followed by the West (19 percent), the Northeast (16 percent) and the Midwest (11 percent). (See the Appendix for definitions of these regions).
• The number of Hispanic high school graduates increased by 57 percent between 2000 and 2007, followed by black, non-Hispanics (30 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (29 percent), Asian/Pacific Islanders (26 percent), and white non-Hispanics (seven percent).

College Participation
• Persistent gaps exist in rates of transition from high school to college among racial/ethnic groups.
• In 2007, about 70 percent of white non-Hispanic recent high school graduates enrolled immediately in post-secondary education, compared to 64 percent of Hispanics and 56 percent of black non-Hispanics.

Applications to Post-secondary Institutions
• Public and private not-for-profit four-year institutions experienced average annual increases in median number of applications of six and eight percent, resulting in 47 and 70 percent overall growth from 2001 to 2008, respectively. The number of applications at private for-profit institutions increased by 69 percent over this period.
• Growth in number of applications was initially greater across all institutional sectors at the beginning of the 21st Century, decreasing slightly around 2003 and 2004 and then gradually increasing toward 2008.
• The greatest overall growth in number of applications occurred in Puerto Rico (88 percent), followed by the South (73 percent), the Northeast (64 percent), the Midwest (56 percent), and the West (49 percent).
• Less selective institutions had greater overall growth in number of applications, despite the fairly consistent average annual growth across all selectivity levels (six to eight percent).
• Institutions with a 75th percentile SAT composite score of less than 1078 (bottom quartile) experienced a 64 percent increase in the median number of applications compared to a 53 percent increase for institutions with a score of 1260 or higher (top quartile).
• So-called special mission institutions had some of the highest growth in the number of applications. Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) had a 111-percent increase in applications from 2001 to 2008, with an annual average increase of 12 percent. This is not surprising, as Hispanic students are the fastest growing segment of high school graduates. Many of the HSIs are two- and four-year commuting institutions whose students predominantly come from surrounding areas.

Acceptance at Postsecondary Institutions
• The median acceptance rate for the public sector declined seven percentage points overall, or an annual decrease in median acceptance rate of about one percentage point.
• On average, the proportion of applicants accepted to private not-for-profit four-year colleges and universities decreased by two percentage points each year, an overall decline of 10 percentage points for the time period studied.
• Annually, the acceptance rate at private for-profit institutions decreased by five percentage points on average, representing an overall decrease of 33 percentage points and a fairly significant increase in admission selectivity over the full time period analyzed.
• Puerto Rico and states in the South experienced the largest decreases from 2001 to 2008 in acceptance rates overall (25 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively), whereas the Midwest reported the lowest increases in rates of students rejected (eight percentage points) during that time period.

Admission Yield
• Private for-profit institutions had consistently high yield rates, averaging 94 percent over the time period.
• With respect to regional variation in yield rates, Puerto Rico’s average (85 percent) was the highest, followed by that of the West (48 percent), the South (46 percent), the Midwest (43 percent), and the Northeast (36 percent).
• The most selective institutions had the lowest yield rates, averaging 36 percent.
• Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—many of them in the South—had an average yield rate of 38 percent, contrasted with Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), with a very high average yield rate (74 percent). Unlike many HSIs, a large proportion of HBCUs are residential, private, and not-for-profit—which likely explains this difference.
• Yield rates decreased from 2001 to 2008 for both public and private not-for-profit institutions (by 11 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively) and dropped the most in the Midwest, while the South and West had relatively small decreases over this same time period.

Post-secondary Enrollment
• Entering class size for all types of four-year institutions grew between 2001 and 2008, with the greatest increases at for-profit institutions.
• The largest increase in enrollments (51 percent) from 2001 to 2008 was in the West.
• The median size of entering first-year classes at the most selective institutions increased by 12 percent between 2001 and 2008.

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By Valerie Strauss  | November 19, 2010; 12:01 AM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  arms race, college admissions, college admissions competition, college applications, college arms race, national association for college admissions counseling  
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Comments

This information is really remarkable. According to the leaders of "education reform" we have a crisis because so many African American and Latinos are dropping out of high school. What will they do when they find out that the numbers of Hispanics and Blacks graduating from high school have risen so dramatically that there is no room for them in the colleges? See my post here: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2010/11/is_college_for_all_hitting_a_w.html

Posted by: anthony_cody | November 19, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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