May 17, 2013

Yielding results

Admissions hit the mark in anticipating yield for the incoming class despite facing a number of challenges.

As the Maroon reported Tuesday, the yield of admitted students choosing to attend the College as part of the Class of 2017 rose to 55 percent from last year’s 46 percent. The release of this figure caps a record year for College Admissions. It follows an all-time high in applications (30,396) and a new low in the plummeting acceptance rate (8.8 percent, down from the Class of 2016’s 13.2 percent). However, working with unprecedented demand was only one of several challenges facing the Office of College Admissions this year. Given forthcoming changes to campus life and financial aid policies, as well as the admissions office’s challenge to balance increased appeal with the distinct quality of a UChicago education, this year’s yield is especially noteworthy.

In recent years, the Office of College Admissions has redoubled efforts to make the University appealing not simply as one among other selective academic institutions, but in its own right as a unique center of intellectual life. This year Admissions has also been dealt a complicated set of circumstances: Student services, particularly housing and dining, are due to experience a strain in the next three years following the closure of Pierce, which no doubt allowed for less leeway with regard to incoming class size. On both of these counts, Admissions appears to have been successful. The Maroon reported that the number of students attending this fall (1,479, down from last year’s 1,527) will be slightly above its target size, but “the class is not expected to merit special housing accommodations.” In the last two years, the yield of admitted students exceeded projections, forcing the placement of first-years in housing designated for graduate students. Maintaining a small class size, while critical for assuring the quality of student services in these next several years, is also an essential part of preserving the UChicago experience of small discussion-based Core classes and a close-knit House system. That Admissions has retained more accepted students without overstretching the capabilities of the University is admirable.

This achievement is even more impressive when one considers the introduction of UChicago Promise, which, according to University spokesperson Jeremy Manier, has likely led to an increased yield among admitted students from Chicago (63 percent, up from last year’s 46 percent). This is most likely due to UChicago Promise’s guarantee that admitted students from the city of Chicago will have their application fees waived and be able to graduate debt free. UChicago Promise, along with larger financial aid efforts, like the Odyssey Scholarships, that aim to bring more socioeconomic diversity to the student body and make UChicago a financial reality for all qualified students, are praiseworthy in and of themselves. However, these new measures present high school students with additional incentives to consider UChicago, and in turn add yet another unpredictable element into Admissions’ calculations, which makes their success with the latest incoming class equally laudable.

These latest yield figures represent an important achievement on the part of the Office of College Admissions, and not simply because yield is commonly taken to be a reliable barometer of academic reputation. Faced with an unprecedented amount of applications, critical campus life constraints, new incentives for prospective students in UChicago Promise and other aid initiatives, and the necessity of preserving the University’s academic experience, Admissions has nevertheless managed to create a reasonably sized class while pursuing worthwhile changes both on campus and off.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints editors.