Admissions sees slight decline in applicant pool

Jon Ruffin

Whitman’s pool of applicants for the Class of 2015 edged down by approximately three percent from last year. Although this number seems slight, it may have a noticeable affect on campus come next fall.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 applications are submitted in the few days before Jan. 15 as prospective students scramble to get their paperwork in before the final admissions deadline. The Office of Admissions works well into February matching the electronic components of applications, such as the Common Application, essays and personal statements, to the paper components, such as transcripts and letters of recommendation. Admissions officers are allowed two full days to work from home reading applications, though most spend their evenings and weekends working as well.

According to Dean of Admission Tony Cabasco between 3,200 and 3,250 completed applications were submitted by Jan. 15 for the Class of 2015. Of last year’s slightly larger 3,300 applicants, 1,550 were admitted and 440 enrolled for the fall semester.

The class of 2014 is the largest class size in Whitman College history, and to compensate for that, the Office is aiming to accept a slightly lower number.

“This year we want to admit around 1,500 to 1,600 students in order to hit about 405 enrolled students” Cabasco said. “We have to balance out the large class size from last year.”

The large size of the first-year class is consistent with national trends for 2009, which according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling saw record numbers of applicants. Colleges nationwide expect the number of applicants to continue to increase until at least 2017.

The 144 Early Decision (ED) applicants for the class of 2015 have already received their admittance letters, down from last year’s 180 ED applicants, a trend which mirrors the national decrease in ED applicants. Whitman admitted 96 of these applicants and enrolled 85.

The Office of Admissions incorporates mathematical modeling into deciding how many potential students to admit.

“I do analysis of data based on where the applicants are from, what their academic ability is, what their interests are, and tons of other factors to help us estimate the number of students we need to admit to enroll our targeted number of new students,” said Cabasco.

The Office looks at the yield from previous years with respect to different application aspects to determine how many applicants to admit.

“We’re predicting that 1,500-1,600 admitted students will get us right in the range we need,” said Cabasco.

In the last few years, the Office exceeded their desired number of enrolled students by underestimating the yield. Expecting a poor economy to deter students from more expensive colleges, Whitman admitted more applicants than usual and ended up enrolling more as well.

ASWC Vice President and Student Affairs Chair senior John Loranger is pleased with the smaller target class size, but believes further action is required to relieve the pressure first-year students felt this past fall and spring when registering for classes. Loranger is also a senior admission intern.

“This is one solution to a problem with many solutions, but we’re really excited because this is a step in the right direction,” he said. “The dip in applicants is in line with national trends, so I don’t forsee any problems we can’t handle.”

The drop in applicants might have a small effect on housing next year. According to Associate Dean of Students Nancy Tavelli, housing has long been tight, which is why Tamarac and North Hall triples were added as housing options for the Class of 2014.

“The small decline in the first-year class will probably be offset by the large sophomore class, but hopefully we will have less triples and can return the guest room to Anderson and make a few minor changes like that,” Tavelli said. “We house a considerable larger number of students than we did 10 years ago, but we always house our first-years and sophomores.”

Given recent budget cuts in the administration, the Office of Admissions believes it will still be able to offer the financial aid packages it would like to, packages that are comparable to those offered in previous years. About 50 percent of Whitman students typically receive need-based financial aid, and 76 percent receive financial aid of some sort.

“Balancing the budget is a delicate task; we have to make sure that the tuition revenue we collect from enrolled students is enough to meet our goals, as that will help the college balance the overall budget.” said Cabasco.

Regular decision applicants will receive their admission decisions by April 1 and will have until May 1 to notify the Office of Admissions of their final decision.