Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Admissions for 2009 strong despite economy

In the wake of the current economic downturn ­ ­admissions trends amongst private liberal arts colleges have changed. As global demand decreases and more Americans lose their jobs, working and middle-class families have less money with which to send their children to expensive schools. So far, these developments have not yet affected Whitman’s overall application trends.

Kevin Dyerly, Whitman’s Director of Admissions, explained that thus far the volume of overall applications is very similar to previous years. In fact, 2009 applications, in terms of sheer quantity, may prove to be a record year. The main difference, it seems, has been in the number of Early Decision applications. Though not quite a record year for Early Decision, both Early Decision 1 and Early Decision 2 counts were up from where they were last year. Total applications last year were just shy of 3,300, with 1450 acceptances. This made for an incoming class of around 415 students in fall 2008.

“We won’t really know for certain for another month, maybe five weeks whether it’s actually a record year. We’re about flat for total number of applications to the college from where we were last year,” Dyerly said, adding that “this is the second highest year ever in Early Decision.”

Despite the harsh economic climate, the admissions office has made speculations as to why this increase in Early Decision applications has occurred.

“Families, with all the [economic] uncertainty, might want to have some finality in this college search process a little bit earlier, and also to some extent even demonstrate interest to their top college earlier,” said Dyerly. “It seems to be a trend across the country with nationally selective liberal arts colleges.”

In terms of academic qualification, the caliber of students applying to Whitman has held steady.

“Our profile for students admitted for Early Decision is consistent with what it’s been for the last several years,” said Dyerly. “Even though we had a large quantity, the quality was still there.”

What may be much more important, though, is what lies ahead in the coming months and years. It still remains to be seen how the economic crisis will affect students who are only now starting to choose where to apply to.

“This may ultimately hit us harder in the 2010 [high school] class. The class of 2009 selected their colleges in September, October, before the market hit the tank. But now, the high school juniors are going through their college selection process with the market in mind and that may ultimately affect who chooses a place like Whitman,” Dyerly said. “It’s like looking into a big gray fog bank. We don’t know what lies ahead and we are trying to prepare for a number of different scenarios.”

This, coupled with a demographic prediction for fewer high school seniors after the class of 2009, may begin to take a larger toll on application volume.

“National demographics show that 2009 is the peak of high school graduates in terms of sheer population. The concern for admissions is that the recession is coming right at the same time where we already expect to see a slight decline in applications,” said Dyerly.

As yet, the good news for Whitman is that there has not been a significant decline in applications. What the future holds for the economy and for national demography is still to some extent unknown.

There are a variety of factors to which Whitman’s consistent application trends may be attributed. Some believe that foremost among them is Whitman’s increasing national reputation.

“Just recently, Whitman was named both by Kiplinger’s personal finance and by the Princeton Review as a Top-50 Best Value College. So you’ve got some third party endorsements recognizing that ‘Yeah, the sticker price of this place might be pretty expensive, but when you look at the quality of the education, and the resources and the faculty…it’s a good value.’ That type of endorsement can really strengthen our reputation,” said Dyerly.

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