Enrollment unfazed by economy

  • The economy is having a variety of affects on higher education
  • .Despite enrollment numbers staying the same this year, some think the next year will determine how drastic the economic effects are.
  • Many schools are making adjustments because of the economic crisis.
  • Despite schools' efforts, some have already been affected.

The downward spiraling economy has had a variety of effects on colleges throughout the country, some not as negative as universities thought they would be.

According to a survey of 50 schools conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, few reported drops in freshmen from this year's fall term.

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of AACRAO, said enrollment has followed a general continuity trend the past decade.

"At most places it appears there is actually fairly consistent enrollment growth," Nassirian said. "You would not detect an economic slowdown from higher education data."

Nassirian said he had originally expected there to be a lot of yields put on acceptance letters, that is, kids enrolling at a college then withdrawing because due to affordability issues.

"The number of yields actually stayed very consistent," Nassirian said. "We were also very concerned about people putting down deposits in good faith and not having the money come spring."

Fortunately, Nassirian said, that problem has yet to occur this term, although next term and next year might be a whole other story.

"We are between two cycles of the current year and things look remarkably unchanged, as if there were no economic crisis at all," Nassirian said. "The unknown is what is going to happen this coming semester. Will the students who started off in the fall still be able to afford it?"

The downturn in the economy could also affect students' range of choices if they are applying for early decisions, Nassirian said. Students who get into a college right at the beginning of the school year may not be able to afford it anymore, even though they have a binding contract.

According to Harvard University Interim President Derek Bok, students of more affluent neighborhoods can apply for early decision, while students from high schools and areas with fewer resources miss out, which is why Harvard no longer has early decision.

"The college admissions process has become too pressured, too complex and too vulnerable to public cynicism," Bok said. "We hope that doing away with early admission will improve the process and make it simpler and fairer."

According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Harvard is not the only school responding to the economic downturn.

Brown University is allowing students to enroll in classes despite debts they owe the school. Yale University is delaying some 2.6 billion dollars worth of projects planned for the next four years. Cornell University is suspending the hiring of non-faculty staff from outside the university.

Although some schools are making compromises to adjust to the complexities of the economy, it seems students will inevitably be affected.

Daniel Waite, a junior at Truman College in Chicago, had planned to attend Milwaukee School of Engineering in the spring semester, but is now unable to do so because of the economic downfall.

"My parents help support me through college," Waite said. "But with the recent recession and the taxes Obama will be implementing, my dad's company might be going under. He simply cannot afford sending me off to college in these times."

According to Tony Pals, Director of Public Information at NAICU, the nearly 1,000 non-profit and private schools all have the same focus.

"At the moment every institution is focused on controlling cost-tightening belts, but also protecting their student aid budgets," Pals said. "Clearly it's a concern among consumers that they will not be able to afford higher education, but schools are doing everything they can to stay affordable."