Amidst a Sinking Economy, Financial Aid Keeps Students Afloat

The New York Times recently posted an article discussing the effect of the downturn in the economy on college admissions. The research led to some optimistic results.

The dean of admissions at Pomona College in California, Bruce Poch, said, “For all the Chicken Little and Henny Penny hysteria and dire predictions, it seems to have worked out just fine here.” At Pomona, 384 applicants sent in their deposits, only 6 fewer than the goal the college had set. The class is “essentially full,” Mr. Poch added, though some students on the waiting list might be offered admission.

At Yale, nearly 70 percent of those accepted, or about 1,330 students, have signaled their intention to enroll, a percentage nearly identical to last year’s, said Jeffrey Brenzel, the dean of undergraduate admissions.

“Our yield so far has been significantly stronger than we expected,” Mr. Brenzel wrote in an e-mail message. “Given the economy, we thought that more students not eligible for need-based financial aid from Yale might accept merit scholarships offered by a number of excellent colleges.”

Another situation being closely monitored is whether public universities are being overrun with candidates, as some high school seniors seek a less expensive education than many private colleges offer.

At the University of Virginia, this year’s yield — 49 percent, representing 3,100 deposits — is only 1 percentage point higher than last year’s. The University of Wisconsin said its yield this year — 41 percent, or about 5,550 deposits — was a drop of 2 percentage points from last year’s. But the university said appeals of financial-aid decisions among accepted freshmen had increased 20 percent over last year.

“The next question is whether the deposits are hard or soft,” said L. David Eaton, the vice president for enrollment. Mr. Eaton said he wondered whether some students had put in a $250 deposit to New Paltz, as well as deposits elsewhere, to hedge their bets.

Georgetown University, Providence College and Hartwick College were among those that said last week that they still had openings in their incoming freshman classes. Officials at the University of California, Los Angeles, said they would not have data before June 1.

All told, the institutions that have reported their yields are a fraction of the nation’s estimated 2,000 four-year colleges, which means it will probably be months before the full picture is known.