The GW Hatchet
February 15, 2016
By Jeanine Marie
Budget cuts have forced admissions officers to change the way they interview prospective students.
The admissions office reduced the number of weekends student representatives travel to interview prospective students this year, officials said. Experts said having fewer students travel with admissions officers is a sensible way for the office to tighten its belt, but as more budget cuts loom, officials could struggle to continue to find ways to make cuts in the high-priority office.
Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton said officials “conducted more targeted” recruitment over the last several years. She said officials have now increased the use of virtual interviews and increased on-campus interviews “in an effort to streamline resources.”
The office has also relied on alumni who can conduct interviews in their home cities, she said.
“Previously, the admissions office sent current students as senior interviewers to interview weekends throughout the country in November,” Felton said. “With these added opportunities to interview, GW was able to reduce the number of interview weekends that required student staffing.”
Last semester, University President Steven Knapp asked all central administrative divisions, including the admissions office, to make 3 to 5 percent budget cuts each year until 2021. All central divisions also trimmed 5 percent from their budgets in 2014.
Felton announced last month that she will resign in May after five years at GW, making her the fifth of six high-level administrators to resign this academic year. Former admissions staffers have previously noted high turnover within the admission office.
Last month, officials announced the largest number of undergraduate applications in at least a decade. Officials attributed the jump in part to the implementation of a test-optional admissions policy, which Felton helped institute over the summer.
Admissions staff, student interviewers and alumni conducted interviews in more than 75 locations in the fall, Felton said.
Historically, about 15 percent of incoming freshmen choose the optional admissions interview. Experts said the informal interviews are not integral to the admissions process, but they can give prospective students an edge as admissions officials look to recruit students who are best fit for GW.
Steve Goodman, a college admissions consultant, said institutions have increasingly relied on virtual interviews or online chats and reduced the number of cities their staffers visit. He said officials must balance their resources, as students apply to more colleges each year, making it harder for schools to predict where they will end up.
“I think you have to err on the side on giving students the ability to tell their story, even if it’s through a Skype interview,” he said.
GW has about 17 admissions representatives who are assigned to specific cities and countries, according to the admissions website.
Goodman also said the office’s increased use of alumni to interview prospective students could have a two-pronged effect: GW both saves money and engages alumni in current undergraduate life, which could mean they are more likely to donate down the line.
Natasha Warikoo, an associate professor of education at Harvard University, said while admissions offices may face budget pressure, they should not reduce or cut pricey programs like admitted students days because applicants who are more difficult to enroll, like minority or first-generation students, may use those events to visit campus for the first time.
A higher number of Latino, first-generation and African American students applied to GW this year compared to last year. Last year, GW updated their admitted students days, which experts said could help secure a larger incoming class.
“Students are often weighing different options and those would be problematic to cut, especially when you think about recruiting non-traditional students who may not be familiar with the GW campus and connecting with other minority or first-generation students,” she said.