UNC drops early decision admissions

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has decided to abandon its early decision program, making it the first large university in the country to do so since the intensification of the early decision debate last fall.

Since Yale President Richard Levin announced in December that he would like Yale and other universities to abolish early decision admissions policies, the only school besides UNC that has taken concrete action in accordance with this recommendation is Beloit College in Wisconsin. Levin said Yale will try to make an agreement among multiple schools to change their policies rather than acting alone.

But UNC has decided not to wait for a collective decision, despite the fact that the change may make the school less competitive compared to similar institutions.

“We’re trying to do the right thing for our students and if in doing that we are able to influence the national climate, well, we hope it does,” UNC Director of Admissions Jerome Lucido said.

In 2000, UNC implemented a reformed early decision policy — alongside its non-binding early action program — which took into account concerns that traditional early decision policies do not allow students to compare financial aid packages and encourage strategizing.

UNC offered financial aid estimates to early decision applicants and admitted only 25 percent of its incoming class through early decision, compared with 42 percent at Yale this year. In contrast to Yale’s disparate early and regular decision admittance rates — 25.9 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively — UNC’s admittance rates have been comparable in the early and regular pools.

“We introduced early decision in a way that we decided to make it as equitable as we could, but even in doing that we found that population was far less diverse than the regular student pool,” Lucido said.

In the early decision pool, 82 percent of the applicants were white, compared to 72 percent overall, Lucido said. He said UNC’s early action pool was more diverse.

So UNC decided to abolish binding early decision, while still retaining its non-binding early action program.

There was not much at stake in the decision at Beloit College to replace early decision with early action, Beloit Director of Admissions Jim Zielinski said. In recent years, Beloit has received between 25 and 100 early decision applications for entry to its freshman class of 300.

But Lucido said UNC is taking a competitive risk by unilaterally abolishing its early decision program.

“We’ve made this decision in spite of the fact that there is competitive risk,” Lucido said.

This risk is one Yale is not yet willing to take, preferring to attempt first to reach a collective agreement.

“[Levin] tries to build consensus,” Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said. “The theory [of acting alone] would be, well, they’ll all follow, [but] they also might watch the limb break at the end of the tree and pick up the pieces of wood that hit the ground.”

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