Getting a college degree is becoming increasingly harder. According to a New York Times article, college enrollment in the U.S. is decreasing as the competition for the top schools in the country is increasing drastically. According to the article, Stanford University accepted only 5 percent of the total of number of applicants, which sets the record for the lowest among the top schools. The article talks about how high school graduates are applying to many more universities now, in order to increase their chances of being accepted to a competitive school. In addition, the overall enrollment in the past six decades have increased drastically, leading the most prestigious colleges and universities to be more picky and decrease their acceptance rates. The percentage of students who apply to seven or more colleges was 9 percent in 1990 and 29 percent in 2011. As the number of application increases, the number of students accepted decreases. The article quotes the dean of undergraduate admission at Duke, Christoph Guttentag, who says that “One of the ways that colleges are measured is by the number of applicants and their admit rate, and some colleges do things simply to increase their applicant pool and manipulate those numbers.”
There has been a lot of debate regarding higher education. It is surprising to see how competitive it is to get into college when one of the things we hear the most these days is how a college degree is becoming less important in the real world. There are a lot of implications when we analyze this situation. Because the most prestigious schools have increased their standards and lowered their acceptance rates, prospective students have to apply to more schools, which consequently increases the number of overall applicants for each school. Even if one school accepts the same number of students as they did before, the percentage is going to be lower. This, as Mr. Guttentag suggests, could lead colleges to switch things up in order for them to rank higher. If we look at rankings of colleges nationally, we notice that the top schools are the ones with the lowest acceptance rate, as well.
Another important thing to mention is the tuition fees students have to pay. This is all a vicious cycle. The lower the admission rates, the better the universities rank, which leads to higher tuition fees. A lot of students decide to not go to school because the tuition is too high. The logical option would be to go to a university that is not as good, but also not as expensive. However, students constantly hear about is Ivy League Schools from their peers, professors, and media; they feel like they can only be successful in their careers if they get into one of these schools because that is where their network power is. Therefore, this can cause the number of applicants to increase, the acceptance rate to decrease, the tuition price to go higher, and the overall number of people without a college degree to go down.
Therefore, although there is not much we can do about regulating private universities, their tuition fees, and their acceptance rates, I think there is room for legitimate concern when it comes to college admissions. One approach is for the high school and college advisors to explain to the students that other than the Ivy League schools, there are several other options to become successful and build a career.