Economy not hurting local college enrollment
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Colleges across the country are starting to see effects of the economic downturn on their admissions process, though several area schools say that they've remained largely unaffected.
A study released today by the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that despite a general increase in applications in 2008, nearly half of colleges reported declines in their "yield" -- the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll.
Of the schools that experienced such decreases, two-thirds said that it came as a surprise. Admissions directors surveyed attributed the decrease to factors such as changes in the financial situations of students and parents, more students attending community colleges and declining home values.
Admissions directors also reported that students were less likely to want to travel to attend schools far from home, more wary of taking on debt to pay for college and more likely to apply to more colleges in hopes of better financial aid.
But in Western Pennsylvania, several schools reported no such economic effects.
"We haven't seen any significant changes," said Jennifer Winge, director of admissions at Allegheny College in Meadville. "We're waiting for it to happen, we're ready, but it hasn't happened yet. We're calling this a crisis of confidence because we're not seeing the effects."
At Chatham University, yield was up for the current freshman class and applications received this fall have increased over this time last fall, said Michael Poll, vice president for admissions.
The only sign of a down economy, he said, is an increase in appeals of financial aid decisions.
Still, the school is trying to prepare in the event of a future admissions decline. Chatham has stepped up its recruitment of international and transfer students, said Mr. Poll, doubling its number of international students over the past year.
At the University of Pittsburgh, the only impact of the economy seems to be an increase in student borrowing in this year's freshman class versus last year's, said director of admissions and financial aid Betsy Porter in a statement.
Even though Allegheny College has been relatively untouched, administrators there are keeping their ears out -- and their budgets trimmed -- for a time when their students and their families might start feeling an economic pinch.
"I have heard from some colleagues that they've seen some increase in current students' financial difficulties, but nothing dramatic," said Scott Friedhoff, vice president for enrollment and communications. "While we haven't seen anything yet, we are going to prepare for what might happen."
First Published December 4, 2008 12:00 am