Yield Rates are Declining – Why?

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Series: Changing How We Understand the Market

In this new series by Jon Boeckenstedt, we analyze current enrollment and demographics data, uncovering stories that challenge how institutions often understand their marketplace—or that shed new light on emerging trends. We want to encourage a deeper look at the implications of today’s marketplace data. We hope that you will share these stories across your institution and use them to start critical conversations to drive not only enrollment strategy but discussions of curricular offerings, student support, and course design. While we’ll highlight findings and stories worthy of closer attention, each article includes an easy-to-use Tableau dashboard that you and your colleagues can use to drill deep in the data yourself.

More in this series:
Is the International Enrollment Boom a Rising Tide that Lifts All Ships?

By Jon Boeckenstedt (DePaul University)

Colleges nationwide are suffering from declining yield rates, and everyone wants to know why.  In some sense, it’s the tendency of colleges to chase the measure of prestige known as selectivity, as defined by a low admit rate. People believe the best way to do this is to increase applications, to allow for a lower admit rate.  The problem is that colleges have a natural market, and, for the most part, applications generated on the margin are softer, that is, less likely to enroll. This depresses the yield rate, which means your admissions office wheels must spin faster just to keep up.

The marriage of colleges and technology has created many ways, such as The Common App, and so-called Fast Apps, to make it easier to apply to college, and this has increased the number of applications students are submitting.  Unfortunately, there aren’t that many more students to go along with the big increase in applications. While applications have increased by 108% percent from 2001 to 2014, the number of high school graduates has increased by only 11.6%; freshmen increased about 27% over that time, as you see in the data below:


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