That’s a lot of files, huh?! Those are the applications to Iona College, which has seen an increase of 30 percent this year. “Iona is looking at the largest pool of applicants in our history,” said Iona’s Assistant Vice President for College Admissions, Kevin Cavanagh. (He’s the guy in the picture!)
Read on for a full story from Iona College.
Flood of Applicants Sets Record for Iona
Economic Factors Have Prospective Members of Class of 2013
Changing the Traditional Approaches to Applying to Colleges
Iona Sees a 30% Increase in Applications
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March 2009) — It seems that with each passing day the repercussions of the national economic recession are being felt in new ways and new sectors of the economy. Take Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, for example. At this time of year the admissions office of this well-regarded co-ed college 20 minutes by train north of Midtown Manhattan would expect to be receiving a rush of applications from prospective new students for the upcoming fall. But that was in “normal” times.
But this year is proving to be far from normal. As Iona’s Assistant Vice President for College Admissions, Kevin Cavanagh, sits in his office these days he has seen the typical rush of applications become a veritable flood. “Iona is looking at the largest pool of applicants in our history. We have seen a 30 percent increase in applications this year,” he says. “That’s a remarkable number.”
A tide of applications for the incoming freshman class is an annual event that peaks at this time of year at all colleges. New students are the lifeblood of any college and the number of applicants is perhaps the most obvious measurement of how a school is doing. Says Cavanagh: “At Iona, fortunately, we’ve been doing well for many years.” Iona has 3,200 undergraduates.
He says that at a recent program he attended for prospective students, Iona was one of eight colleges making presentations. “The other participating schools had seen increases in applications for admission ranging from 5 to 20 percent. When I said that we were at 30 percent, it drew a lot of attention. Interestingly, the one participating school that had seen a decline in applications is at the high end of the tuition scale. That’s a tough sell in this economic climate.”
He noted that this year has seen the traditional ways of evaluating and understanding the flow of applications become almost irrelevant. “With an increase in applications by nearly a third, it becomes nearly impossible to forecast where you’re going to end up in terms of your fall enrollment numbers. The statistics and trends of the past don’t provide a guide. In a very real sense we are operating in uncharted waters.”
According to Cavanagh, several factors are behind the radical change from past patterns. “You begin with the recession and the impact it is having on families and prospective students. The recession is affecting people in real financial terms, but also in their psychological outlook. It is from the recession that these new admission patterns flow.”
What accounts for the spike in applications? Cavanagh says the economy has families looking much harder at tuition and all other related college costs. We’re finding that when students and parents are deciding among colleges that are of comparable caliber and quality, they are paying strict attention to the difference in cost. In the current environment, $10,000 either way is significant. There’s definitely a value-play at work and the result is that many prospective students are looking at a different mix of colleges than they would have in the past.”
Another factor that comes into play is the availability of financial aid and scholarship money. Iona has committed more than $8 million in financial aid for the incoming freshman class. “That’s an acknowledgment of the times we are in and is in addition to need-based funds available from the government as a result of families filing the FASFA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid),” he notes.
Cavanagh explains that the recession has parents, in particular, apprehensive about their finances. “They want to make sure that come next fall they will, in fact, be able to send their child to college. That has led them to want to have broad college options that reflect their concerns over cost.”
Other factors that have led to the change in traditional application patterns include:
• The ability to get financial aid from the state. For example, New York’s TAP is restricted to colleges that are in-state. This is leading to more New York State residents applying to in-state colleges.
• Parents and prospective students are concerned that public colleges and universities such as the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) won’t be an option because they are being overwhelmed with applicants because their tuitions are far lower than those of most private colleges. Based on the sheer volume of applicants being seen at SUNY and CUNY schools alone, many qualified students will have to be turned away for lack of space and thus will have to look elsewhere.
• Travel to distant schools is also a factor, not just for students but for parents who wish to visit. For a New York City area student to choose a school in the Rocky Mountain region or the Pacific coast means high travel expenses. As people try to cut their expenses, travel costs become an issue.
Cavanagh says the great unknown for college admissions directors is how many of those who are accepted from the flood of applicants will actually attend when classes begin next September? “There are so many variables at this point that it is impossible to know how this is all going to shake out. On one hand it is unfortunate that the economy is creating major new stresses for parents and students alike. On the other hand it opens up exciting opportunities for both the students and the colleges. The National Candidate’s Reply Date is May 1. That will tell us a lot. In the meantime, admissions directors across the nation are anxiously waiting to see how this will all play out.”
He noted that Iona’s proximity to New York City, its attractive 35-acre campus and its wide range of academic offerings are a strong attraction for students. At the same time, Iona’s tuition is “at or below” that of comparable private schools in the region. Tuition is $26,000 and room and board is $11,000. “With our aggressive scholarship offerings and need-based financial aid program, Iona offers a very solid value for a private school of similar caliber. “
Concludes Cavanagh: “In terms of admissions, this is an unprecedented year for all colleges. The good news is that Iona has an exceptionally large number of very well-qualified applicants. All things considered, that’s not the worst problem for an admissions director to be facing.”