Sunday, April 5, 2009
By Brittany Anas, Heath Urie
BOULDER, Colo. – Kristen Moree of Asheville, North Carolina, says a tight economy is forcing her to choose a college that’s not just a great fit for her, but also one that fits her family’s budget.
“Money is a big factor,” said Moree, an 18-year-old student who has been admitted — but not yet committed — to the University of Colorado.
Moree attended a college fair at CU for prospective students on Saturday with her father, Kevin. He said while money isn’t everything he’s taking it into account while his daughter searches for a school.
“Essentially, it boils down to that,” he said.
As the national May 1 acceptance date looms for high school seniors to commit to universities, the uncertain economy means colleges are intensifying their efforts to seal commitments from higher-paying, out-of-state students. At CU, leaders expect next year’s class will be smaller than last fall’s historically large group, and there will be a higher percentage of in-state students.
The annual revenue brought into CU by 100 out-of-state undergraduates is $2.6 million, according to the university. That compares with $641,000 for every 100 Colorado undergraduates.
CU, for the first time ever, held the fair Saturday for its admitted students — attracting more than 3,500 could-be freshmen and their parents to the campus to participate in a pep rally, tour the campus, meet with professors, and find out about financial aid. Students could sample classes at the recreation center, watch a laser show at the planetarium and go bowling in the student center.
Andrew LaCorte, 17, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had lunch at the student dining hall, visited an on-campus residence hall and toured the CU grounds.
He said he’s among only a few in his high school to seriously consider attending an out-of-state university this year.
“So many kids in my class have gotten into out-of-state colleges,” LaCorte said. “An unbelievable amount have turned them down and chosen to go in state.”
The cost of tuition outside his home state, LaCorte said, is simply too high for most of his peers.
Admissions counselors expect that for every four out-of-state students CU accepts, one enrolls. There’s about a 50 percent yield rate for in-state applicants.
But, the recession might mean college-bound students opt to stay closer to home and pay cheaper tuition bills. Public colleges and universities are bracing for lower yield rates from non-residents, said Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
“Much earlier, in a much more Spartan era, the whole thing was an exchange of letters,” he said. “It was a custom and a tradition, and colleges weren’t used to hustling. They would send their very dignified letters of acceptance and sit back and wait. Increasingly, they’re realizing that’s not enough.”
Now, colleges across the country are following up with phone calls to admitted students, sending them university baseball hats or even confetti along with their acceptance letters.
Out-of-state applications to CU this winter were down 19 percent from the same time last year, which marked a record-high admissions cycle. The number of Colorado students applying to CU’s flagship Boulder campus also dropped about 6 percent.
CU this admissions season has offered acceptance to 16,362 students, which is 1,480 less than last year at the same time.
Interim CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano said top university officials have been traveling to 18 major cities across the country since late-March visiting with accepted — but not necessarily confirmed — high school seniors and their parents.
High school seniors from as far away as Hawaii and as close as Boulder visited the campus for the inaugural “Admitted Student Day” on Saturday. Admissions Director Kevin MacLennan said the program allows students and their families to explore the campus and connect with faculty and staff members.
Nearly seven in 10 high school students say the downtrodden economy has affected where they applied to college this year, according to an annual survey from the Princeton Review. The test-prep company surveyed 12,715 college-bound students and 3,007 parents for the “College Hopes and Worries” report.
Devon Theune, 18, of Monument, said the tight economy has limited her options now that it’s time to pick a college.
“We’re considering only in-state schools, simply because of the costs,” she said.
Her father, Tom Theune, lost his job last October and recently found work for about half the pay. Still, he said, “it’s important to get your kids into college.”
Steven Roy Goodman, a college admissions consultant and author based in Washington, D.C., said he’s noticing more rifts between parents who may not agree whether out-of-state college is a good investment. Colleges and universities, over the past few years, have opened up more parent offices, said Goodman, the author of “College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family.”
“They want to make parents feel like they’re part of the community, beyond writing the check,” Goodman said.