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Direct Admissions’ First Year is a Success

May 11, 2023

This past application cycle, many universities participated in direct admissions programs for the first time. In this type of program, students do not apply directly to a university, but instead share their high school transcript, intended major, and standardized test scores. Universities then decide whether or not to offer them a spot.

Prior to the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, West Texas A&M University was one of the only universities with a direct admissions program, as reported by Scott Jaschik of Insider Higher Ed. In this program, principals from 137 high schools near the university nominate five students from each school annually for direct admission. A university admissions officer reviews each student’s transcript, test scores, and class rank, and then typically admits the student. Jaschik writes that since the program’s creation in 2018, 972 students have been nominated and 234 students have enrolled in the university through this process.

For the 2022-2023 admissions cycle, the Common App joined in on this admission program. The six participating universities include Montclair State University, Fisk University, George Mason University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Middle Tennessee State University, and Marymount University (of Virginia).

Mary Churchill, associate dean of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement and professor at Boston University, spoke to The Conversation of Fortune about direct admissions. Churchill explains that the program “enables colleges to reach more students than they would if they only did high school visits and college fairs, or direct marketing to students. In addition, the college has an opportunity to reach potential students who are from more demographically diverse backgrounds than their usual applicants.” She adds that “direct admission does not require students or their families to fill out an application or pay application fees.”

Other experts in higher education also believe that direct admission disproportionately benefits certain students. Jaschik quotes Jennifer Delaney, a professor of higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; “The administrative and bureaucratic barriers present in traditional college admissions systems are unnecessary barriers. They deflect students from attending college, even when they would benefit from pursuing a college degree. Removing these barriers is likely to be most impactful for vulnerable student populations such as those who are low income, first generation, rural, foster youth and from minoritized backgrounds. Removing these barriers should produce additional equity and equality of opportunity.”

Jaschik also shares that “colleges and companies pushing direct admissions… [are] declaring success.” He writes that Augsburg University, a small private university in Minneapolis, is “one of the few colleges to admit all its students this year through direct admissions.” Robert J. Gould, vice president for strategic enrollment management at Augsburg, shared statistics with Jaschik about the incoming class. Gould shared that “Deposits for enrolling in the fall are up 14 percent from where they were last year in a standard admissions system,” and the deposit total, as of now, is 528. The average GPA of the incoming students is 3.38, up a bit from last year. Additionally, 73% of incoming students are people of color—up from 62% last year. Finally, 46% of incoming students are male—up from 39% the previous year.

Jaschik writes that the companies who are working with universities on direct admissions have also seen these offers skyrocket this year. EAB, a company that last fall purchased Concourse, an enrollment platform for direct admissions, has seen 193 universities make direct admissions offers to students. As quoted by Jaschik, John Michaels, a spokesman for EAB, explains that “those institutions have made 39,165 admission offers this year.” Jaschik adds that that number “compares to 12,631 admission offers made through Concourse last year (2021–22, with fewer colleges participating), and 4,323 the previous year (2020–21).”

Universities that offer direct admissions will continue to admit students for this upcoming school year, so these enrollment numbers will continue to change. For now, this year’s direct admissions initiatives seem to be a success. Direct admissions trends are sure to evolve over the next few years, as colleges try to make up for declining enrollment trends in higher education.

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