Students—especially those who are economically disadvantaged—and universities are hurt by how simple it is to apply to schools online.
The concern for colleges is that selectivity and national reach aren’t the only metrics that matter. Just as critical is “yield”—the share of accepted students who actually enroll. It’s what colleges use to project their revenues and manage their finances, and miscalculations can be fatal. Too few students—too low a yield—can spell shortfalls that lead to budget cuts, fewer classes, or even faculty layoffs. … On the other hand, too many enrollments could mean not enough student housing or financial aid.
Most schools, however, are having trouble finding the right students. In fact, despite the online application boom, schools are in crisis around yield. NACAC’s State of College Admission survey found that the average four-year college yield rate was 35.7 percent in 2013—down from 48.7 percent in 2002.
Of course, most students have no idea that this is how colleges are judging them. Some do, however, because they have the means to hire private educational consultants who can explain the rules of the current admissions marketplace. “One way to tell that the market is dysfunctional is if you have to hire a guide,” says Roth, from Stanford.