While the recession is making it more difficult for students and their families to afford higher education, the tough economic times also are making it harder for colleges to be sure their freshman classes are filled, the Washington Post reports.
Until September, when students arrive on campuses across the country, start classes, and pay their first tuition checks, colleges will not know how many members of their freshman classes "melted" away over the summer. Melt is a term used in higher education to quantify the number of first-year students who accept admission at a school, pay a deposit, but subsequently decide not to attend that college.
In some cases, melt happens because students reserve spots for themselves at multiple schools to postpone their decisions until late summer. But this year, higher education officials anticipate losing students in the coming weeks who can no longer afford tuition. To ward off the damaging financial effects of having far fewer students paying tuition than they anticipated, college and university officials across the country admitted higher numbers of students and increased the size of their wait lists more significantly than they had in past years.
A survey released by the Chronicle of Higher Education this spring found that private colleges admitted 8.7 percent more students this year than last. Public colleges admitted 3.1 percent more students.
Colleges have worked harder than usual to hold onto their accepted students by trying to make them feel more personally connected to the schools they chose. At Catholic University, admissions counselors send postcards each summer welcoming freshmen, but this summer, they hand-wrote the cards. At Trinity Washington University, admissions staff posted a new-student checklist on Facebook. And at American University, upperclassmen have contacted every incoming freshman by phone or E-mail to offer congratulations and assistance.
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