Personal Finance

This month, 200,000 high school seniors will get automatic college acceptance letters — before even applying

American University president on rising college costs: We have to focus on the value proposition

More schools offer guaranteed admission

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling, colleges are looking for new strategies to recruit students from diverse backgrounds, according to Jenny Rickard, CEO of the Common App.

“It’s about removing barriers,” she said. “It’s about equity and access.”

Each year, more than 1 million students — one-third third of whom are first-generation — use the common application to apply to school, research financial aid and scholarships, and connect to college counseling resources, according to the nonprofit organization.

Individual schools and school systems have also rolled out similar initiatives to broaden their reach. Last spring, the State University of New York sent automatic acceptance letters to 125,000 graduating high school students.

College enrollment is falling

Photo: Bryan Y.W. Shin | Wikicommons

Nationwide, enrollment has noticeably lagged since the start of the pandemic, when a significant number of students decided against a four-year degree in favor of joining the workforce or completing a certificate program without the hefty price tag of the more advanced degree.

This fall, undergraduate enrollment grew for the first time since 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest report.

But gains were not shared across the board. Community colleges notched the biggest increases year over year, the report found, accounting for almost 60% of the increase in undergraduates.

“Students are electing to pursue shorter-term programs,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “More 18- to 20-year-olds, especially at four-year institutions, are opting out.”

Tuition keeps rising

Recent data from the Common App found that that more than half, or 55%, of students who use the Common App’s online application are from the highest-income families.

Steadily, college is becoming a path for only those with the means to pay for it, other reports also show.

And costs are still rising. Tuition and fees at four-year private colleges rose 4% to $41,540 in the 2023-24 school year from $39,940 in 2022-23. At four-year, in-state public colleges, the cost increased 2.5% to $11,260 from $10,990 the prior school year, according to the College Board.

Financial aid is key

“Just because a school offers acceptance doesn’t mean the finances will line up,” cautioned Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and author of “The Best 389 Colleges.”

“It’s important to ask critical questions,” he said. Students should consider how much aid is being awarded, as well as the academic fit, campus culture and career services offerings.

Further, even if acceptance is not guaranteed, there are many schools that accept the majority of those who apply, Franek said.

In fact, of The Princeton Review’s list of 389 best colleges, 254 schools admit at least half of all applicants. More than one-quarter admit at least 80% of those who apply. (On the flip side, only 8% of schools on the list of best colleges admit less than 10% of applicants.)

“We always think of the most competitive schools but there is a school, and likely many schools, out there to consider,” Franek said.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.