After Initial Surge With Early FAFSA, Schools See Cooling Trend in Applications

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

The Early FAFSA could be having a larger impact on college and university admission applications than anticipated, according to one new survey from Royall & Company, a division of EAB.

In a follow-up survey examining ongoing FAFSA activity, the researchers found that after an initial surge in applications coinciding with the new FAFSA timeline, many are now seeing their application rates fall. The latest survey was conducted in January with 145 institutions, and while on average 2017 applications are up 4 percent compared with January of 2016, the fall spike in applications did not predict a large net increase. Rather, there was an increase in applications from a more limited applicant pool.

“Things looked good for entering class potential, both in raw numbers and in class makeup,” wrote Pam Kiecker Royall, head of research for Royall & Company, in a blog post. “But, within just a few short weeks, many institutions found their application rates beginning to slow, due in part to students submitting fewer applications than in years past. Some institutions fell from positions of relative enrollment comfort to the alarming realization that they were short on applications.”

Among the schools that completed both the November and January surveys, more than half said they saw an increased number of applications in November, but 32 percent reported a decrease in January, while 24 percent said their application volume was flat. Schools that reported a decrease in applications also said they were down in acceptances (by 10 percent on average) and ISIRs (by 2 percent). Likewise, schools that reported an increase in applications also saw an increase in acceptances, by 15 percent on average, the survey said.

The change in application volume appears to coincide with changes resulting from the new FAFSA timeline. Sixty percent of the schools surveyed said they released their aid offers before the winter holidays and 32 percent are communicating their need-based financial aid offers with admission letters.

“We believe this data indicates that the acceleration of applications, admissions, and aid packaging allowed many students to narrow their range of applications and eliminate second-attempt applications to their second-choice schools. They applied, were admitted, and the process was over for them,” Royall wrote. “The earlier FAFSA continues to infuse this enrollment cycle with volatility we’ve not seen—nor could have anticipated—before.”


Publication Date: 2/27/2017

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