"Here are three sets of findings from NACAC’s annual "State of College Admission" report:
Yield Rates Are Sliding
Nationally, application surges continue for most colleges, with more than 70 percent reporting year-to-year increases in 10 of the last 15 years. For the fall 2013 admission cycle, 32 percent of freshmen submitted seven or more applications.
As applicant pools expand, uncertainty usually grows. Many colleges have seen their yield rate — the percentage of accepted students who enroll — decline sharply. In the fall 2013 admission cycle, the average institutional yield rate was 35.9 percent, down from an average of 39.5 percent in 2010, and 48.7 percent in 2002.
It’s long been said that enrollment goals are subject to the whims of teenagers. Yet Mr. Fuller, the association’s president, says many decisions about where to enroll now hinge on last-minute conversations students have with their parents about affordability. Sometimes that means students who had planned to attend four-year colleges end up enrolling at community colleges. "Those kinds of conversations," he says, "are definitely playing into yield numbers."
Transfer Students Are Crucial
Many colleges are located in regions where the number of high-school graduates has plateaued. That’s one reason some enrollment officials are deciding to make transfer students a bigger piece of their recruitment puzzle.
Forty-four percent of four-year institutions reported an increase in transfer applicants over the previous five years, and 37.6 percent reported an increase in transfer enrollments. At public institutions, two-thirds of transfer students were previously enrolled at community colleges.
"A lot of us are really seeing the value of these students and what they add to the campus," Mr. Fuller says. "They’ve got a proven history."
As for the future, 58 percent of four-year colleges anticipate that recruiting transfer students will become more important over the next three years. (Public institutions were more likely than private ones to rate the importance of such students highly.) And 80 percent of respondents said their college had admissions counselors who work exclusively with prospective transfer students.
Recruitment Has No Borders
College-bound students everywhere are on the move. Over the last 40 years, the report notes, the number of students enrolled in colleges outside their home countries increased to 4.5 million from 800,000. That number is projected to exceed seven million by 2025.
Meanwhile, more and more foreign-born students are earning diplomas at American high schools. "Recruiting international students," the report says, "is no longer reserved only for those professionals who travel internationally."