Despite being one of the most expensive schools in the country during an economic downturn, the University’s yield rate increased by 2 percent this year.
Initial admissions figures for the incoming class show the yield rate – which is the percentage of accepted students who choose to enroll and deposit at the University – at about 36 percent, up about 2 percent from last year. GW admitted about 7,290 students, about 100 more than last year, said Kathryn Napper, executive dean for undergraduate admissions.
While the high yield rate could complicate housing arrangements and increase class sizes, Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said having a higher yield rate was good news.
Though there was an increase in the overall number of applications this year to 19,500, up about 200 from last year, Chernak said administrators had planned for the percentage of accepted students who send in a deposit to fall by about 1 or 2 percentage points this year.
“You could say we erred in judgment by about 2 to 3 percent, but you never want to come in under budget,” Chernak said. “We estimated a bit too conservatively, but it says that GW is still popular.”
Amidst this year’s economic uncertainty, the Board of Trustees approved a $13 million increase in the financial aid budget in February, bringing the total budget to $133 million, up more than 10 percent from last year.
Daniel Small, executive director of financial aid, said his office has seen a 10 percent increase in the number of freshman financial aid applications and has worked with staff to handle an increase in inquiries from parents and students with financial concerns.
“We started to realize that people’s investments weren’t going to be as strong as in the past and people’s ability to access home equity loans would be less than in the past,” Small said. “Though people had invested over the years and done the right things, the funds weren’t there when they needed it.”
Small also said that since more of the class of 2013 demonstrated financial need, as much as 62 percent of the class will receive assistance, almost 4 percent more than previous years.
Although the percentage of students who chose GW and placed a deposit is up this year, Chernak warned that the future is still uncertain for the exact numbers of the class.
“We are planning with a statistical model, it’s more of an art than a science,” Chernak said. “It’s like trying to land a 747 on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
So even with the class of 2013 making its way to Foggy Bottom for Colonial Inauguration, the offices of admissions and financial aid are still waiting to see just how many of the 2,550 accepted students who placed a deposit show up for classes on August 31.
In the complex world of admissions projections, the summer before first day of classes almost always is subject to a “summer melt,” or loss of a number of students who were accepted and made a deposit.
Chernak said the University historically loses around 5 percent of its deposited students. But this year, Chernak suspects that the current economic climate may throw off this usual figure.
“We are not sure if the historical summer melt will sustain itself with the rate of unemployment and the economy,” Chernak said. “There will certainly be GW families that are affected, so there is an unknown about the summer melt because we haven’t had a situation quite like this one.”