Wednesday, December 17, 2014

College Admissions Trends to Watch in 2015

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

2014 has been a remarkable year in college admissions, and next year promises to be no less exciting.  Some trends will build on the changes that occurred this year, and some will seem to come out of nowhere. Either way, here’s what you’ll want to watch for in 2015:

College Costs, Part 2  Spring always brings renewed concern that the price of college is too high, but college costs spend months in the 2014 headlines, as average student debt for a Bachelor’s degree surpassed $30,000 in many states.  Tuition increases have slowed, but not stopped entirely; state legislatures will take this issue on in earnest, since it isn’t an election year.

More Aid for International Students  Lower oil prices mean fewer full-pay families in oil-dependent countries overseas. Look for colleges to offer more aid to international students to advance their goals of campus diversity and full classes.

More Support for School Counselors? 2014 brought praise for school counselors as never before, with the White House launching a multi-faceted initiative to get counselors better training in college admissions, and to get colleges to increase college access. After three college summits and Michelle Obama’s address to the American School Counselor Association, the center of action shifts to the states, where educators, policy makers, and foundations will combine their time and talents to move this agenda forward, whether or not it enjoys further attention in the national spotlight.

Resurgence in Technical Training  Increased college costs and the modest rise in unemployment for four-year college graduates are leading some states to wonder if the drive to send more students to four-year colleges is economically sound. Look for state officials to lead a resurgence in touting the benefits of vocational and technical training, news that could resurrect hurdles for low-income, first generation students to explore the full array of education opportunities after high school.

More Test-Optional Admissions Programs…  The new SAT is scheduled to roll out in 2016, leaving colleges time to consider the importance of standardized testing in their admissions process.  The number of “test optional” colleges has increased every single time SAT or ACT changed their test—and this will be no exception.

and More Innovative Admissions Methods  Goucher College shook the foundation of college admissions this fall when they announced students only needed to submit a 2-minute video to apply, and some colleges are considering questionnaires to determine if admitted students have the social skills and stamina to complete a degree.  This “no test, no transcript” approach is something to watch in 2015, as grade inflation and test prep courses lead more colleges to consider new ways to see if students will enroll and complete.

A Crossroads for Community Colleges New pressures are requiring colleges to consider how to help enrolled students finish a degree, including community colleges, where degree completion has traditionally only been one part of the definition of a completing student.  Will a community college student no longer be considered a success if they take the four classes they need to get a $10,000 raise at work—and if not, is that a good thing?  Stay tuned.

Fewer Students, More Applications  Birth rates show high school graduates will decline for at least 8 years, but there are more college applications going out than ever before.  This will continue next year…

More Parental Involvement in Applying will the increase in parents who want to help “edit” student essays and “organize” a student’s communications with colleges.  Any trend decreasing student ownership of the application process is a step in the wrong direction.  It isn’t likely, but let’s hope this practice slows.