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Enrollment Yields Drop for Fall 2008 Class

Declining enrollment yields are causing elite colleges and universities to reach deeper into their freshman wait lists according to today's Wall Street Journal.

With a record number of high school graduates combined with increasing numbers of applications and deposits, even the most experienced enrollment managers are challenged to forecast new student enrollment. "It was certainly a year in which there was more uncertainty than I've experienced in over 30 years in admissions," says Bill Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid.

This increased wait-list activity ripples through the market as students alter their decisions. In addition to the elite institutions, some state colleges and smaller liberal-arts schools are also drawing more from their wait lists. The University of Wisconsin-Madison expects to take 800 from the wait list this year, compared to only six students last year.

Admissions Application: The New Inquiry Card
With more efficient application methods combined with pre-printed application forms, the admission application has become the new "inquiry" card with students applying to a record number of institutions. For example, the Common Application announced in January that its online system had processed a record 1 million + applications in a six-month period. Contributing to the application glut is the use of so-called "express applications" where known demographic data is pre-printed on the application or pre-populated in a secure web page.

It's clear that the path to enrollment has changed with students no longer following a lock-step progression through the enrollment funnel. Application increases combined with enrollment deposit growth is shaking the traditional funnel model.