Journalism in the Public Interest

Admissions Directors at Public Universities Speak Honestly (and Anonymously) About Their Goals

But a newly released survey by Inside Higher Ed of admissions directors underscored schools’ strong interest in out-of-state students and international students, who typically pay higher tuition.


(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

As we detailed last week, many public universities, suffering from state budget cuts or hungry for prestige, have made it a priority to attract out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, and those who will help boost the schools’ place in college rankings.

But a newly released survey by Inside Higher Ed of admissions directors directly about their priorities, allowing them to respond anonymously. The survey, of course, is of admissions directors -- so it’s focused more on what type of students schools are going after in the recruitment stage, and less on the students who gets financial aid as a sweetener to prompt enrollment.

Still, it’s a reflection of some of the same priorities -- including a strong interest in out-of-state students and international students, who typically bring in more revenue, even with modest discounts.

For instance, 80 percent of admissions directors surveyed at public four-year universities agreed or strongly agreed that they were likely to increase their efforts to recruit out-of-state students. The percentage was slightly lower -- but still 66 percent to 72 percent, depending on the type of public institution -- for international students.

The survey also has some telling results about the popularity of so-called merit aid, which universities use to give discounts to particularly appealing students.

About two-thirds of admissions directors at public universities said that they would likely increase their efforts to recruit students with merit scholarships. Most also said they didn’t see a problem with using institutional resources on merit aid -- even though as we noted, investing resources in merit aid often means giving it to students who don’t need it, and not having much left over for those who do.

Over the long term, state schools have been giving a growing share of their grants to wealthier students, and a declining share to the poorest students, as we reported. They’ve also been serving a shrinking portion of the nation’s needy students, leaving community colleges and for-profit colleges to take on more of that responsibility.

Asked about first-generation college students, the responses from admissions directors indicated that they were also a target population, though perhaps less so relative to out-of-state or international populations: 62 percent of admissions directors at public research universities said they’d likely increase recruitment efforts for first-generation populations, and that figure was 55 percent for master’s/bachelor’s degree public institutions.

For a look at the full report, head to Inside Higher Ed. And if you’re admissions director who’d like to chat more, why don’t you send us an email?

Herb Ruhs, MD

Sep. 18, 2013, 6:17 p.m.

I was entertained by the concept of “honest” admissions directors.  Saved having to read the piece as well.  In general I find that anything that advertises itself as honest, probably isn’t.

clarence swinney

Sep. 21, 2013, 4:45 p.m.

Cut Bush 1400B Deficit in half in first term—
Get troops out of Iraq—
Get out of Afghan in 2014—
Get Health Care Reform-
$666 Billion over ten years for Infrastructure Repairs
Universal access to Kindergarten education funded by new taxes on tobacco
Repeal automatic cuts by Sequestration.
Reduce agriculture subsidies for wealthy farm owners.
Stop individuals from receiving both unemployment and disability payments
Raise Medicare premiums for wealthy retirees.
Pass American Jobs Program to create/save 4 million jobs
Negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare patients
Limit tax deductions and loopholes for the top 2 percent of income earners
Cancel Bush Tax Cuts for top 2%
Make permanent tax credits for low income earners via American Opportunity Tax Credit, Earned
Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
Close some loopholes for corporations and lower corporate tax rates
Suggestion: Cut deep in Pentagon—-Means Test Medicare and Social Security
Great Dreams Mr. President—How many killed by Republicans?

Wondering about private colleges mandating their own “credit check”
in the form of “financial aid application”...FAFSA should be adequate
and a second credit report is illegal per Title IV CFR.  Have been
denied Title IV processing because I was not amenable to completing
an intrusive, far-reaching “financial aid application” from a private college, after being fully admitted, matriculated graduate student.  Admissions Officer was only person I was able to communicate with and she was a brute!  Thanking you for any input with this situation; hoping to attend in Spring after filing complaint with Inspector General’s office @ federal Dept. of Edu.

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