How does WSU compare?

Harvard recently topped the Ivy League list as the university with the lowest student acceptance rate, according to an article in Newsweek. Coming in at only 9.1 percent, with a record 22,796 applications, its selectivity — and competitiveness — has never been tougher … or so it seems.

To get a better understanding of what this really means for WSU — which has an acceptance rate of about 75 percent (out of 9,463 applicants in 2004) — let’s break it down a little. Acceptance rate indicates the number of students accepted for admission to a university from the pool of applicants. Enrollment yield is the number of those accepted applicants who actually go on to enroll at the university.

In 2004, WSU had an enrollment yield of 43.5 percent, while Harvard’s is close to 80 percent. Out of 21 peer schools reporting, WSU ranked 12th in acceptance rates for 2004, with Cornell number one at 29.4 percent and Iowa State at the bottom with 90.2 percent. For enrollment yield, WSU ranked 15th in the field with University of Tennessee-Knoxville rating number one at 92.3 percent and University of California-Davis 22nd with a yield of 24.7 percent.

Once a student is offered admission to WSU, he or she must make a nonrefundable $200 deposit.

“We do know that once a student has committed to coming to WSU by paying the deposit, we get a much higher enrollment yield,” said Fran Hermanson, director of Student Affairs Research and Assessment. “Of those paying the $200, we had about 90 percent enroll in 2004. This is up significantly from yields of 84-85 percent in past years. We are expecting the enrollment yield for fall 2005 to be very similar to last year’s,” she said.

A number of factors influence these statistics. “For example, some schools take as many applicants as possible,” explained Hermanson, “and yet they still plan on accepting only a limited number of students. This drives down the acceptance rate and can help make the school look better in ranked surveys, such as the heavily weighted and anticipated U.S News and World Report on America’s Best Colleges.”

Because of similar temptations to game the system, enrollment yield has been dropped from the U.S. News report, while acceptance rate remains only one of many factors making up the ranking category of “student selectivity.” SAT or ACT scores also are considered, along with the number of enrolled freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

“Overall, students primarily look at a school’s reputation, as well as its academic program list, when making their final selection,” Hermanson said.

As for Harvard, there is a practical explanation, in addition to its Ivy League status, for those record application numbers. The school recently instituted a policy of waiving parental contributions to tuition for those families earning less than $40,000 per year. It’s probably a safe bet that strategy would happily increase applications — and lower acceptance rates — for many colleges across America.

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