Class of 2015 acceptance rate lowest in university history
Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2011 08:03
Hopeful applicants of Tufts' class of 2015 yesterday afternoon received news of the university's decision regarding their futures on the Hill, capping off an admissions season marked by the largest-ever applicant pool and lowest acceptance rate in Tufts' history.
Yet even as the class of admitted students boasts what is technically the strongest academic profile ever for the university, admissions officers were not able to turn a blind eye to their financial need and do not expect to resume a need-blind policy for many years.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions experienced its most selective year in university history, lowering the acceptance rate from 24.5 percent last year to 22 percent this year, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin.
The university witnessed its largest-ever applicant pool in Tufts history this year, receiving a total of 17,130 applications, 11 percent more than the previous year, Coffin said.
The School of Engineering, which experienced its fifth record-breaking pool of applicants in a row this year, admitted 26 percent of applicants. The School of Arts and Science admitted 21 percent of applicants, according to Coffin.
"This is a surge year," Coffin said. "That's a record low for both of those schools."
Other universities and colleges across the country have seen similar increases in their applicant pools, according to Coffin.
"Most places that I have talked to have seen an increase of some percentage," Coffin said. "Many schools I know saw five- or six-percent increase this year."
Coffin attributes the nationwide trend of rising applications to both the stabilization of the economy and the increased emphasis by the national media on the value of an education from an elite institution.
"What is fueling it is people saying, ‘I want to go to the best college I can go to,' so places like Tufts are seeing a rising volume," he said. "That's what's making these acceptance rates go down."
The profile of the newly admitted class, Coffin said, is nearly identical in many respects to that of last year's class and relatively in line with classes over the past several years.
"What is interesting … is the consistency of quality over the past five classes," Coffin said. "The admissions process recently has produced a class that is pretty consistent compared to the year before — both demographically and geographically very similar."
This year's class has the highest mean SAT scores in both the math and writing sections of the SAT of any class in university history and the same mean on the critical reading section as last year's class.
"Academically, this is the class with the strongest academic profile that Tufts has ever accepted," he said. "But that is splitting hairs — they just inched up a little bit."
Fifty-two percent of admitted students this year applied for need-based financial aid, Coffin said, slightly down from last year's 54 percent. Still, the Office of Financial Aid offered grants to the same number of students as last year, a data point Coffin called more salient when discussing financial aid.
Just over $15 million was earmarked for need-based financial aid for members of the Class of 2015, up from $14 million last year, Coffin said. This number, along with the average size of grants, grew in response to the rise in the university's tuition rates, according to Coffin.
Applications this year were read in a "need-sensitive" manner, Coffin said. The university admitted the Class of 2011 and 2012 on a need-blind status, or without any regard to financial circumstances, but the economic downturn made the practice impossible two years ago.
Coffin was not optimistic about the university's ability to return to a need-blind policy.
"I think we will be need-sensitive for the rest of my life," he said. "I don't see that issue changing in the foreseeable future."
Coffin noted that the demographic makeup of the admitted class was very close to last year's, with nearly the same percentages of admitted domestic students of color, first-generation college-bound students and students who attended public high school as last year's class.
"Demographically, this class is almost a carbon copy of the year before," Coffin said.
Heightened recruiting efforts abroad have resulted in a record-high percentage of international students, Coffin said.
"The work we have been doing on the international side has translated into acceptances," he said. "More admissions officers are traveling internationally than they were five years ago and that pays off over time; the pool grows and the quality of the pool increases."
In particular, Coffin said, the number of applicants from China and African countries grew this year, an increase he attributes both to growing accessibility of information online and recruitment trips abroad.
"The Internet has allowed students from places where colleges like Tufts have never gone to find us," he said. "That's what happening in China and Africa; you are seeing pools of students emerge in ways they couldn't have a decade ago."
On the domestic side, the number of applicants from California continued to expand this year. Coffin said that recruiters' recent focus on the West Coast was an explanation for the increase.
"We have spent a lot of energy in California in particular because it was clear that California was the state that would keep growing and where we needed to develop a higher profile," he said.
Coffin estimates, based on matriculation averages from the past three admissions cycles, that roughly 35 percent of admitted students will enroll this year by the decision due date, May 2.