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Elite public colleges slash acceptance rates, raising pressure on students

Elite public colleges slash acceptance rates, raising pressure on students

The Hill

Daniel de Visé
October 12, 2022
Not long ago, a student with a high class rank and solid SAT scores could count on a seat at the local state university.
But now, at the most prestigious public institutions, admission rates hover in the 10- to 20-percent range, a tier of selectivity once reserved for the Ivy League.
University of California flagships in Los Angeles and Berkeley admitted 9 and 11 percent of applicants, respectively, to the 2022 fall class. UCLA fielded 149,813 applications, enough students to populate Jackson, Miss.
At the universities of North Carolina and Virginia, admission rates narrowed to 17 and 19 percent, respectively, for the new freshman class. Flagship campuses in Georgia, Illinois and Wisconsin all admitted less than half of their applicants this year. A decade ago, all three reported admit rates more than 60 percent.
Simply put, the admissions crunch bespeaks more students applying to the same number of top-tier public universities. The college-age cohort is growing apace with the U.S. population. Students are applying to more schools, thanks to the internet and the easily replicated Common Application.
College enrollment declined during the pandemic. Now, students who paused their studies may be returning to campus. College administrators and consultants expect admission rates at elite schools to dip further in the 2023-24 cycle, which is already underway. Many schools have early decision deadlines on Nov. 1.
“It’s a little like the Wild West in admissions these days, filled with uncertainty,” said Caroline Fisk, an educational consultant in Cary, N.C., who has watched the dwindling admission rate at the flagship North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill.
Vegas-style odds are not the norm in higher education. The average collegiate admission rate stands at roughly 70 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report, publisher of the best-known college rankings.  
Today’s middle-aged parents attended college in an era when only a few dozen elite universities, nearly all private, could boast truly daunting admission rates. Harvard, Princeton and Yale, the cream of the crop of the Ivy League, admitted roughly 15 to 20 percent of applicants in the late 1980s. This fall, Harvard’s admission rate reached an infinitesimal low of 3.19 percent.
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