Sunday, December 1, 2019

Threat No. 2 — National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Changes

Threat No. 2 — National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Changes

At their annual meeting this fall, NACAC (The National Association for College Admission Counseling) voted to suspend their Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP). This action was in response to a challenge from the Department of Justice, which had determined that the CEPP amounted to collusion on the part of colleges and universities because it limited student choice.

For decades NACAC members had agreed not to:
  1. Provide incentives for Early Decision;
  2. Recruit students who had committed elsewhere;
  3. Pursue students after 1 May (with the exception of wait lists); or
  4. Recruit students enrolled elsewhere, unless the student initiated the process.

The DOJ averred that families were not benefitting from a truly open and competitive market. Many NACAC members, especially high-school guidance counselors, believed that the CEPP helped them to place students in institutions where they would be most successful. Both sides have valid points.

Given the recent meteoric rise in discount rates, it is hard to imagine families will see significant savings, but bidding wars may become common practice.

A number of colleges had worked outside the CEPP guidelines before the recent suspension. This was especially true regarding incentives for Early Decision.

The changes of practice that are receiving the most attention on campuses this fall are  the new allowances for institutions to continue recruiting students who have already committed to another university and to initiate the recruitment of students who are enrolled elsewhere.

In an October survey of enrollment professionals conducted by EAB, a larger portion of institutions were implementing new efforts to retain recruited students than were planning to “poach” from others.

A third were allotting additional strategic financial aid, and a similar portion was planning to significantly increase the amount of their deposits to make it less attractive to switch to another institution. A ninth were considering pursing applicants who had enrolled at a competitor, and about twice that many were considering continuing to recruit students who had deposited at another institution.

Four out of five institutions surveyed, said they were stepping up summer communication with deposited students. Many indicated that they were accelerating housing and roommate assignments and course schedules.

In our era of instant delivery, these are meaningful gestures to prospective students and their families. Many of them are aware of the thousands of students who take more than four years to graduate because of a shortage of required classes, but this a typically a symptom of large public schools. Among nearly all private liberal arts colleges, that doesn’t happen. A hallmark of our institutions has been an onboarding process that included multiple interactions between students and faculty advisors before selecting a bespoke set of courses for that students.

I am glad that many of the changes that are taking place will streamline the enrollment process for our students, but I fear more and more of them will be entranced by bidding wars and perks rather than fit and return on investment.

I hope in this new “wild west” of enrollment practices that, like Susquehanna, our sister institutions stay focused on their missions and the best interests of the students we were all founded to serve.


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