State colleges' appeal soars in tough times

<p>Interesting article in the Newark (NJ) Star Ledger..</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a>
Number of applications hits record high
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Star-Ledger Staff
The lousy economy has been accompanied by an unprecedented surge of interest in New Jersey's public colleges and universities, with nearly all reporting record applications. </p>

<p>At the College of New Jersey, early-decision applications are up more than 30 percent. Regular applications have jumped 20 percent at Montclair State University, 11 percent at Kean University, and an astonishing 40 percent at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. </p>

<p>"That's huge," said Jason Langdon, director of undergraduate admissions at Montclair State. "We usually don't see that kind of swing." </p>

<p>Much of the allure boils down to two little words: in-state tuition. </p>

<p>The economic slowdown means Carlos Lalata is leaning toward Montclair State for daughter Giselle, who has been admitted to that public school as well as Seton Hall University, a private school. </p>

<p>"It's $10,000 compared to $30,000," said Lalata, a Nutley resident who has seen business drop at his ice cream franchise. "It's an easy choice." </p>

<p>The big exception to this trend is the state's flagship university, Rutgers, where applications are running 2 percent below this time last year. "I wish I could explain it," said Courtney McAnuff, vice president of enrollment. He suspects some potential applicants are choosing community colleges instead -- tapping the NJ STARS program, which offers free tuition for top students. </p>

<p>"Although we are a great buy, it's still expensive to go to college in New Jersey," he said. "Families at the bottom tend to get help, and families at the top are okay. But families in the middle are being squeezed -- and they can't refinance their homes." </p>

<p>Even Rutgers is seeing signs of a roiling admissions landscape: a 4 percent rise in applications from out-of-state students looking to transfer, and a record number of applications for housing. McAnuff thinks families may be deciding a dorm room makes sense after weighing the cost of both commuting and off-campus housing. </p>


<p>The statewide surge in applications has created a paradox: Just when more Garden Staters want to attend public colleges, it may be harder for them to get in. </p>

<p>Average SAT scores are running 10 points higher at Montclair State University, 15 points at Rowan University, 20 points at Kean University. "It's not a good year to be on the bubble," said one admissions officer. </p>

<p>Admissions staff also sense an extra layer of worry this application season. </p>

<p>Parents who always dreamed of private schooling for their children may be abandoning those plans by necessity. "Maybe the money's not there anymore, so they're changing their plans on the fly," said Montclair State's Langdon. </p>

<p>Langdon also said his standard request for midyear grades produced a flurry of frantic calls from applicants' parents this year. </p>

<p>"You can feel their anxiety. I normally don't get calls from agitated parents about midyear grades," he said. </p>

<p>For years, educators bemoaned the fact that New Jersey tops the nation in the percentage of its students who go to other states for college. The tough economy may have accomplished something all the glossy recruiting brochures couldn't: persuade New Jersey high schoolers to stay in the state to attend college. </p>

<p>Here is a breakdown of the application changes in several Jersey schools: </p>

<p>The New Jersey Institute of Technology reports 40 percent more applications, a 15 percent jump in acceptances and, from those, a 50 percent increase in tuition deposits. </p>

<p>Kathryn Kelly, dean of admissions, reports students are also showing a preference for practical areas of study. "They're much more career-oriented, job-oriented," she said. "They don't know what the future looks like." </p>

<p>Montclair State University reports a doubling of interest in its invitation-only honors program. While in previous years it would consider applications that rolled in after the March 1 deadline, this year's flood of applicants means the deadline will be firm. </p>

<p>At Rowan, the number of applications is about the same as last year, but it is coming from a stronger pool of students, said Al Betts, director of admissions. As a result, Rowan has already accepted 2,600 students, compared with 1,700 by this time last year. </p>

<p>Registration deposits are up as well -- a fairly sure sign those students did not view Rowan as a safety school. "What this means, you tell me," said Betts. "Maybe it means they want to get a commitment and just get on with it." </p>

<p>Kean University will increase the size of the freshman class by 300 to 400, but even that won't be enough to accommodate the 11 percent jump in applications, said university president Dawood Farahi. The grade-point average of this year's applicants is almost 3.2, up two-tenths. "That's a huge jump," he said. </p>

<p>The College of New Jersey has seen no bump in applications, but has seen the average SAT score rise by 20 points. And even though the school's application deadline is March 1, all the slots for biology majors are taken, said Lisa Angeloni, dean of admissions. </p>

<p>In addition, her office is fielding an influx of calls from parents. "They're calling to say, 'I just lost my job. How can TCNJ help me?'" she said. </p>

<p>One big unknown is whether private colleges will respond to this shift by increasing their financial aid offers. Drew University, where applications are running 2 percent ahead of last year, is sending out its aid packages earlier in recognition of the uncertainty some families face, said Mary Beth Carey, Drew's dean of college admissions and financial aid. </p>

<p>Despite the higher sticker price of private schools, families need to look carefully at the bottom line before ruling them out, said Pete Nacy, assistant vice president for admissions at Seton Hall University. </p>

<p>Public schools often tack on costly fees and may not have as much grant money available, he said. Those factors combine to shrink the gap between Seton Hall and a midlevel state college to $2,000 to $4,000, he said. </p>


<p>Still unknown is whether the surge in applications will result in more New Jersey students actually attending a public school. </p>

<p>Are teenagers applying to public colleges just to be on the safe side in case their first-choice private school fails to offer enough financial aid? When that acceptance letter from a hotshot private school arrives, will they somehow find the money? </p>

<p>Trying to predict how many admitted students will attend is always a knotty problem for colleges, one likened to landing a jumbo jet on a dime. If too few students attend, tuition revenue lags while expenses stay fixed. Yet if too many attend, there may be a shortage of dorm rooms, parking spaces, lab equipment or class sections. </p>

<p>The fact housing and tuition deposits are running ahead of last year hints that state schools could end up with record enrollments for the fall. </p>

<p>Still, admissions directors say plunging family finances make it almost impossible to predict enrollment this year. At Seton Hall, where applications are up 16 percent in large part because of a direct marketing campaign, Nacy said he remains uncertain how that will pan out in the fall. </p>

<p>"The 600-pound gorilla in the room is the economy," he said.</p>

<p>I don't know why state schools would have more appeal now, other than cost. With all the state budget deficit, many state schools' funding will be cut. Private schools with bigger endowment will be more insulated from the economic down turn. There is going to be even a bigger gap of quality of education between publics vs top tier privates.</p>

<p>Thank you very much for posting this article!</p>

<p>I know our state school, UConn is expecting a large increase im applications(has been gradually the last few years) and they are also considering an increase in tuition. I think it will be harder to get into for some and I noticed on their site here, some EA's with good stats getting deferred.
I think more and more parents are scared and with state schools you at least know the base price. If you are a high-scorer, UConn gives aid, but either way, you know the price. Privates might be cheaper, but it's always a ? until the papers arrive.</p>

<p>"Private schools with bigger endowment will be more insulated from the economic down turn."</p>

<p>Harvard's got the biggest endowment and it seems to be running into the problems that other private school are running into.</p>

<p>"There is going to be even a bigger gap of quality of education between publics vs top tier privates."</p>

<p>The quality of students will be higher at publics though. You can get a great education at Publics. You may have to learn more on your own through self-study but a public provides the foundation and resources.</p>

other than cost...


<p>The percentage of Americans who can put cost in the "other than" catagory is smaller than it's ever been. </p>

With all the state budget deficit, many state schools' funding will be cut. Private schools with bigger endowment will be more insulated from the economic down turn...


<p>How many colleges have endowments large enough that this economic downturn will not effect them? From what I'm reading, it 's not more than a handful.</p>

There is going to be even a bigger gap of quality of education between publics vs top tier privates....


<p>Actually the gap is closing. Just look at this article. The GPA and SATs of students admitted is going up at the higher ranked publics.</p>

<p>I think all we have to do is to look at CA. Majority of private school's funding comes from tuition even if doesn't cover 100%, whereas Publics' funding comes from the government, it's not hard to figure out what would happen when the government cuts its budget. Most of those private schools are continuing with financial aid, some are even eliminating more loans this year to attract top students. My local district is cutting back on non essential personnels (vice principle, guidance counselor, curriculum adviser) and full day kindergarten, I could only imagine what they are cutting back on public universities.</p>

<p>Quality of education does not just come from quality of students, especially when it comes to higher education. You need lab equipments, funding for research. I do think education is going to be another area where there'll a bigger disparity between haves and have nots. This is another casualty of our economic down turn.</p>

<p>Once again it's the middle class that will lose out on this - pay top dollars and get lower quality education. Top students eligible for financial aid will still be able to go to top privates. For people that could afford to pay full fare have even more of a reason to go with privates. At some point, the government has to come up with a way to give the middle class a break.</p>

<p>One thing that surprises me...the surge at NJIT. The location in Newark is pretty bad. It is, however, close to Manhattan. </p>

<p>More and more (at least here in SJ) are going the community college route. The Stars II program is a great deal.</p>



<p>Most college endowments are down at least 25 to 30% and possibly much more---it's difficult to accurately value assets that no one wants to buy, and those represent a large share of many top schools' endowment holdings. Those losses will not be fully reflected in declining endowment payouts until three years from now, as most schools base their payout on a moving 3-year average of endowment assets. But they're bracing for stiff cuts. Harvard's arts and sciences program is reportedly looking at cutting its budget 10%. This is not a pretty time for college and university finances, public or private. Endowment payouts will be down, tuition revenue will weaken as more students seek more financial aid, and SOME states---emphasize "some" because this is highly variable by state---will be making deep cuts to public higher education. I'd look for a lot of private schools below the HYPS tier to start gingerly retreating from policies they can no longer afford, like 100% need-blind admissions and guarantees to meet 100% of demonstrated need.</p>

<p>I think one of the reasons some of the northern NJ/Comm colleges are getting more of the increase is because students can save even more $$ if they live at home....i'm not sure if that's an option or optimal at some of the others....what % of students commute to Rutgers-NB or TCNJ??</p>

<p>I don't think any school is ever need blind, it's usually need aware. Private schools will admit more students that could afford to pay full fare, not necessary less qualified. Schools like Cornell, with contract schools, will probably admit more OOS. I still believe good private schools will be less effected by the economy down turn because higher percentage of its operating cost is covered by tuition, whereas public schools' cost is covered by outside funding (government). I also think every state will cut back on its funding to its public higher education. I don't think there is one district that's not facing public school budget shortfall this year. I live in one of the wealthiest school districts in NJ, and we are going to increase class sizes, and doing away with full day kindergarten. Nothing is off the table at this moment.</p>

<p>the other public college issue is class availability due to the influx. Will it mean extended time to get all those classes in under a 4-4 1/2 year time? If it is a class only offered in the spring or fall and needed for a requirement/major, they will have to wait till next year, that extends what you have to pay in the end if it will take 5+ years. No win situation.</p>



<p>These are overly broad generalizations. It's not necessarily true that a higher percentage of costs at private schools is covered by tuition. First, their fixed costs are generally spread over a small student base, so costs per student tend to be significantly higher; part of the tuition differential is just to correct for that cost structure. Second, most of them need to offer steep tuition discounts (financial aid) to attract the students they want, so what's left of tuition revenue after FA is paid may be much less than it appears from the sticker price. Also, those that are dependent on tuition for the largest fraction of their revenue are arguably the most vulnerable; if they can't find students willing to pay the high cost and fill all those seats, their budget could go into a death spiral---high costs spread over a smaller student base, higher tuition, less capacity to compensate with FA, more losses of students. This won't be the very top schools, mind you, but I think we'll see a lot of private schools closing their doors in the next few years. </p>

<p>As for state schools, it's not clear every state will cut, and they certainly won't cut equally. Wisconsin's governor just proposed a budget that holds state aid to higher education constant. Michigan's governor just proposed a modest 3% cut, and state aid currently comprises only 7% of the University of Michigan's budget, so that translates into a negligible loss. Other schools, especially those most dependent on state aid and those in the states with the biggest budget deficits (currently CA, AZ, FL, and NY) will get whacked pretty hard. But so will many privates, some of which are quietly planning for 10% to 15% budget cuts. That cuts to the bone.</p>

<p>Take a semester off and then take the course and when it is available.</p>

<p>My observation is that the quality of the student is a much bigger impediment to graduating in four years instead of course availability.</p>

<p>bclintonk - I do agree with you for the lower tier private schools. I think there are still plenty of parents that would be happy to full fare their kids to go to top tier private schools. Collegeboard has a pretty good analysis of private vs public, out of respect for CC I am not going to provide the link.</p>

<p>In our family, there are 3 state schools on the list:
UMD (high match)
St. Mary's (low match)
Salisbury (safety)</p>

<p>We've only toured UMD, and let me tell you, the news we got was not comforting. Sure, the price is lower than the privates and OOS on the list. But, based on what we heard, H and I both came away doubting Son could finish in 8 semesters; 9 would be lucky. </p>

<p>Why? Because the dean came right out and said that
1. professors are retiring
2. no replacements due to hiring freeze
3. fewer classes to be offered due to fewer profs (and more TAs due to fewer profs)
4. Psych majors that want grad school must fight hard for the limited number of research opps available. Waiting for the right op could very well extend the UG experience.</p>

<p>She actually painted a pretty grim picture. So now, for us, it's not a given that state schools are a better value. When considering price, time, and even the "hassle factor," we're definitely in an "apply broadly and see what happens" state of mind. </p>

<p>In these times, no single blanket statement about affordability is necessarily true.</p>

<p>DougBetsy, what about getting credit for AP classes? Doesn't that shorten the time needed to graduate? I know a lot of top tier privates won't give credit, but surely the public Unis will.</p>

<p>My friends son goes to UMD, honors program, and he said he is still happy with it. Not physch, though, business. He said issue with getting into classes is sometimes overdone by students who dont want early morning classes. He also said he has had some superb TAs. His biggest problem was he was forced to move off campus, which added expense and hassel.</p>

My friends son goes to UMD, honors program, and he said he is still happy with it. Not physch, though, business. He said issue with getting into classes is sometimes overdone by students who dont want early morning classes. He also said he has had some superb TAs. His biggest problem was he was forced to move off campus, which added expense and hassel.


<p>That's great for early risers in the Business Honors program. </p>

<p>But we heard straight from the Asst. Dean of BeSoS. She said all seats are becoming scarce. Period. She even called the situation unacceptable. Like Business, Psych is a limited enrollment program (LEP). Lucky to get in and hard to stay in. Those students can't afford to assume it will be smooth, timely sailing. </p>

DougBetsy, what about getting credit for AP classes? Doesn't that shorten the time needed to graduate? I know a lot of top tier privates won't give credit, but surely the public Unis will.


<p>Yes. That is a bright spot. Every little bit helps. Especially when courses are closed or a kid wants to switch majors. </p>

<p>So Son WILL apply to Maryland. And if accepted, he'll give serious consideration to enrolling. We're ruling nothing out at this point.</p>

<p>But, my point is, state schools aren't the magical solution for everyone. In our case, 9 semesters at UMD might cost as much as 8 at Elon or even more than Roanoke/High Point/etc after merit bait. Other families will probably face similar dilemmas. </p>

<p>I didn't mean to hijack the thread. I just feel strongly that these days, no single blanket statement about affordability is necessarily true. It's a wait and see exercise.</p>