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CU-Boulder Tuition & Aid Advisory Board (TAAB)
CU-Boulder non-resident undergraduate enrollment
Lou McClelland, CU-Boulder Planning, Budget, and Analysis
June 9 2005
Out of state or non-resident undergraduate enrollment at CU-Boulder will be around 7,600 in fall 2005, a
decline from almost 8,300 in fall 2003. Here we explore reasons for the decline by examining freshmen
applications, admit rates, enrollment or yield rates, and retention, plus what freshmen admits who are not
enrolling say about their reasons.
We focus on entering freshmen because over 85% of non-resident undergraduates entered as fall freshmen.
Our interpretations of the facts and figures are in bold italics.
Applications are the first determinant of freshman enrollment - we cannot enroll students who don't
apply. Prospective freshmen typically apply between October and January (February in earlier years) for the
following fall. Applications from out-of-state students for freshman admission to CU hit a peak of 13,155
for fall 2003, declining for 2004 and again for 2005, to 9,707 for 2005, a drop of 26% in two years.
- The downturn in applications preceded all publicity about Ward Churchill's writings so clearly cannot
be due to negative reactions to the Churchill story. The story about Churchill's 9-11 essay broke in
late January 2005, and 90% of applications for fall 2005 had been received and processed by that time.
Applications for 2005 were 24% under the prior year at the time of the first Churchill story, and
ended the year 17% under.
- Factors that may have affected numbers of applications:
- Increases in our academic-year tuition rate of over $1,000 per year for each of 2002-03, 2003-04, and
2004-05, on top of tuition that in 2001-02 was already $3,900 over the average for AAU publics for
out-of-state students. Our 2001-02 tuition rate was also over $12,000 per year greater than average
in-state tuition in students' home states, at AAU public universities. Attending a public
home-state university, with in-state tuition charges, is a viable alternative for most of CU's
out-of-state students. Families do compare in-state at-home tuition to CU's out-of-state tuition.
- A national economic recession starting in 2001
- The August 2003 Princeton Review rating of CU as the number one party school
- National press coverage of the football recruiting situation, which peaked in spring 2004.
- We suspect that the downturn in applications is a function of these four factors working together.
The relative influence of each factor cannot be determined.
Out of state applicants generally apply to and are admitted by several colleges or universities - an average
of over five in 2005. The second determinant of enrollment at CU is the proportion of admits to CU who
actually enroll here; this is called the yield rate. While the yield rate cannot be known precisely until
fall census (mid-September), the number of admits paying $200 confirmation deposits to hold a place in the
fall class is an early indicator. The national and CU deadline for confirmations is May 1.
- In 2005, for the first time since 2000, the number of confirmation deposits paid (and not cancelled)
per 100 admits is higher than the previous year at the same time. This has been true since mid April
and remains true in the first week of June. Right now 27.3% of admits are confirmed, vs. 25.3% at this
time in 2004. This is an 8% increase in confirmation deposits per 100 admits - very good news.
- Events between last fall and early June that might have affected the deposit rate
- All Churchill events
- Hoffman's resignation, March
- Dismissal of the lawsuit involving football recruits, March
- A letter to all out-of-state admits announcing a four-year tuition guarantee: After a "modest"
tuition increase for 2005-06, each student's tuition rate is guaranteed or frozen for four years.
The letter was sent in April.
- A scholarship offered to the top 25% of out-of-state freshmen admits, for $15,000 over four years
with $5,000 in the first year. Letters were sent December - March as students were admitted. At
present 360 of these top students are confirmed - one-third more than expected based on the number
of admits and behavior of this group last year.
- We suspect that the tuition guarantee and scholarship offers were more important in increasing
the deposit rate than the press coverage of Churchill, the president, or the lawsuit.
The number of admitted applicants combines with the yield rate to determine enrollment of entering freshmen.
- Number of freshmen from outside Colorado, each fall 2000 through projected 2005:
- 44-45% of all freshmen were from outside Colorado fall 2000 through fall 2003; 42% in fall 2004;
projected 38% in fall 2005. State statute limits the proportion from outside Colorado to a three-year
average of no more than 45%.
Freshman retention to the second fall term also influences total enrollment.
- 82% of out-of-state fall freshman entering in each of fall 1997, 1998, and 1999 were enrolled their
second fall. This fell to 79% for those entering in 2000 and has yet to recover. The class entering
in 2000 was the first to experience a recessionary period in their freshman year.
- In contrast, retention rates for in-state freshmen were stable or increasing for classes entering 2000
- We suspect the drop for out-of-state students reflects an increase in students who returned to their
home states to attend a relatively less expensive public institution there.
What prospective out-of-state students say
- In May 2004 and May 2005 we surveyed samples of out-of-state freshmen admits who had not paid a confirmation
deposit indicating their intent to enroll.
- An e-mail invitation and two reminders produced response rates of 16% in 2004, 19% in 2005.
- In both years, admits were asked to indicate "the ONE area CU-Boulder could improve that would do
the most to have increased your chances of enrolling here" from a list of ten. In both years, over
40% checked an alternative related to cost, either "Cost (tuition, financial aid, living costs)" or
"Merit scholarships." In both years, around 20% checked "Academic reputation," about 7% checked
"class size," and 8% or fewer checked any other response including "other."
- While two-thirds of 2005 admits had heard before of issues involving "controversial professors,"
only 18% indicated that this had affected their decision not to come to CU. 82% had heard of
"football publicity," with 21% indicating that this had affected their decision not to enroll.
The issues questions were not asked in 2004.
- Responses are consistent with the notion that cost plays a role in more students' decisions not to
enroll than any other single factor.
- We have not surveyed incoming freshmen who are planning to enroll, nor have we attempted to survey high
school students who have not applied.
Reference timetable of events - All figures refer to new (incoming) freshmen paying out-of-state tuition
- Mid 2001 - National recession, end of 10-year economic expansion
- Dec 2001 - Press coverage of rape allegations against CU football players and recruits at an off-campus party
- Feb 2002 - 11,947 applications for fall 2002, matching the number for 2001, itself an increase of 26% over 2000
- July 2002 - Tuition set for 2002-03 at $18,120, a $1,496 or 9% increase from the prior year. All tuition figures
are for the academic year for a full-time Arts and Sciences student.
- Aug 2002 - 25% of admits enroll, slightly up from 24% the prior year
- Dec 2002 - Lawsuit filed in case involving football recruits
- Jan 2003 -- 13,155 applications for fall 2003 - an all time high number, 10% more than the prior year
- July 2003 -- Tuition set for 2003-04 at $19,508, $1,388 and 8% over the prior year.
- Aug 2003 - 23% of admits enroll, down from the 24-28% seen in the prior three years
- Aug 2003 -- Princeton Review releases its annual rankings, with CU the number one party school
- Dec 2003 - Second woman joins the lawsuit involving football recruits
- Jan 2004 - 11,665 applications for fall 2004, 11% fewer than the prior year
- Jan-Feb 2004 - Intense press coverage of allegations involving supervision of football recruits; meeting between
Governor Owens and CU President Betsy Hoffman; football coach suspended
- May 2004 - Investigatory commission reports on football recruiting situation; coach reinstated
- June 2004 - Survey of admits not planning to enroll indicates that price and academic reputation are the most
important reasons for not selecting CU once admitted
- July 2004 -- Tuition set for 2004-05 at $20,592, $1,084 and 6% over the prior year
- Aug 2004 - 21% of admits enroll, down from 23% in the prior year
- Aug 2004 - CU falls from first to ninth in Princeton Review's annual rankings of party schools.
- Nov 2004 - Athletic director resigns
- Dec 2004 - Chancellor Richard Byyny resigns
- Jan 2005 -- 9,707 applications for fall 2005, 17% fewer than prior year. 90% were received before any press
coverage of Ward Churchill or his essay
- Jan 2005 -- Press coverage of Ward Churchill's writings begins in very late January
- Mar 2005 - CU president Betsy Hoffman resigns
- Mar 2005 - Racist incidents on campus
- Mar 2005 - Last lawsuit involving football recruits is dismissed
- Apr 2005 - Letter to admits announces four-year tuition guarantee, with no rate increases for four years for these students
- June 2005 - Survey of admits not planning to enroll. Results echo 2004 results: Price and academic reputation are the
most important reasons for not selecting CU once admitted. While two-thirds of admits had heard before of issues
involving "controversial professors," only 18% indicated that this had affected their decision not to come to CU.
- June 2005 -- Tuition set for fall 2005 at $21,900, $1,308 and 6% over the prior year
- Coming August 2005 - A projected 23% of admits enroll, up from 21% the prior year. Projection is based
on the percentage of admits who have paid (and not cancelled) a confirmation deposit; this percentage is
running two percentage points ahead of the same time in 2004.