GW officials said they are not concerned with a recent trend of high school students declining admission to private universities to enroll at more affordable state institutions.
According to a May Wall Street Journal report, “a number of schools, particularly private colleges just below the top tier, are having to scramble to fill their freshman classes.” The study also reported that schools were reaching further into their waiting lists to fill classes, listing GW as an example.
But GW Director of Admissions Kathryn Napper said the University’s yield – the percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll – is at 34 percent, the same as last year.
“Yes, the economic condition is a concern because it affects (enrollment),” Napper said. “But I’m not sure to the extent that the Wall Street Journal said.”
The University accepted 25 more students from its waiting list this year compared to last year. The report attributed the slight increase to more students choosing to enroll in cheaper, state universities.
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said GW anticipated using the waiting list.
“One problem this year was making sure we didn’t come in with a class greater than 2,400,” Chernak said. “We’ve been a little more conservative on the acceptance this year because we knew we’d have to turn to the waiting list.”
Administrators said they are working to help families pay GW’s $39,890 price tag, allocating an extra $13 million towards the financial aid office for the upcoming year. The addition brings the total aid distributed to $110 million.
Chernak said approximately 1,200 incoming freshmen will be receiving some form of scholarship, the same as last year. About 850 of the winners will receive need-based awards, up from 656 in 2002.
Chernak said there has been a “definite switch” to granting need-based scholarships rather than merit-based.
GW spent $19 million on freshmen scholarships in 2002 and will do the same this year. But Chernak said $14 million will be given out based on a family’s financial need, up $4 million from last year, and only $5 million will go to freshmen for merit scholarships. Last year merit-based awards totaled $7.6 million.
The shift occurred because the University raised its standards to receive a merit scholarship.
“Even though the profile of the incoming class is stronger, we gave it to less people,” Chernak said.
He said the Board of Trustees also invested more money to financial aid for returning students partly because of current economic conditions.
“Will it be this way forever? No,” Chernak said. “But you’re looking at a two to three year cycle before you see a turn in the economy.”
Regardless of the current economy and other external factors, Chernak said he was pleased with 2003 admissions numbers, as GW received a record-high 18,458 applications and lowered its acceptance rate to 38 percent.
“In terms of our enrollment goals, we met them,” he said. “We’ve decreased enrollment rate, applications are up 9 percent and the quality of the class matriculating is better than ever.”