Admissions Fears

Survey of enrollment leaders finds them to be depressed about their prospects, given the coronavirus. Strategies vary.

March 18, 2020
 
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Admissions officers are deeply worried about the potential impact of the coronavirus on enrollment, a new survey suggests.

Asked to rank their prospects for the yield -- the percentage of admitted applicants who will enroll -- 43 percent of enrollment leaders answered 5, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the worst. And 32 percent answered 4.

Those are among the answers to a survey released by EAB on Tuesday on admissions in the era of the coronavirus.

EAB released answers from 257 four-year colleges, 64 percent of them private, and not all of them EAB clients. The colleges are roughly an even split among selective, most selective and least selective institutions.

A large majority of those answering -- 87 percent -- worry that future visits to the campus by potential students will decline.

This year, 36 percent saw a decline in visits, 50 percent saw no decline and 15 percent were unsure.

Many colleges have been adding online programs for newly admitted applicants or other potential applicants in light of this year's health issues.

  • 62 percent are adding video conferences
  • 54 percent are promoting their virtual tour
  • 46 percent are adding social media platform live events
  • 43 percent are increasing the number of social media live events already scheduled
  • 26 percent are adding a virtual tour.

Travel is a norm in admissions.

But according to the survey, 46 percent of respondents are limiting travel by geography; 48 percent are reducing time spent on the road; 48 percent are limiting college fair participation; 43 percent are canceling planned yield programs; 34 percent are reducing off-campus yield events; and 22 percent are canceling off-campus programs. Only 19 percent of respondents indicated they were not adjusting spring recruitment travel.

Most enrollment leaders are working on a scenario for dealing with students who are not able to complete high school this year due to the coronavirus. Currently, only 5 percent of respondents have a plan, but 65 percent are working on a plan.

International Students

One of the biggest concerns of admissions officials this month is the impact of travel restrictions on international enrollments.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that they are bringing down their yield projections in an expectation that fewer international students will be able to arrive next fall. Twenty-seven percent of the survey respondents are admitting more domestic students to compensate for the decline in international students.

Among respondents' strategies for dealing with uncertainty about international students:

  • 18 percent said they are deferring admission for students from countries most impacted by coronavirus.
  • 12 percent are admitting more international students to "mitigate melt risk."
  • 7 percent are extending deposit dates and/or offering refunds.
  • 6 percent are expanding the domestic student wait list
  • 4 percent are expanding their international student wait list.

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