E.A. to come under review

In a move that could fan the flames of a renewed nationwide debate on early admissions, Yale will consider ending its early action policy during a formal review process later this year, University President Richard Levin said Thursday night.

Yale’s review, announced in the wake of Harvard’s decision to revert to a single admissions deadline, will be conducted before Harvard’s policy change takes effect next fall. But Levin said Harvard’s trial period without early admissions — currently set to last for two to three years — will continue to inform Yale’s shifting opinion of the program.

“Now we have a live experiment,” Levin said. “Harvard has made a move, and we’ll be thinking hard about it and watching it closely. We’ll certainly be looking at that option this year in light of Harvard’s decision. I wouldn’t want to predict how it would come out.”

This decision marks only the most recent shift in Yale’s — particularly Levin’s — take on early admissions. In 2001, when Yale still maintained a binding early decision program, Levin ignited a national debate by criticizing such programs, saying that early admissions should be abolished altogether. Months later, the University switched to a single-choice early action program, and other schools, including Harvard and Stanford, soon followed suit.

In a field where the University once seemed poised to set the pace among its peer institutions, officials at Yale now seem more inclined to await the effect of Harvard’s decision on its applicant pool and, perhaps more importantly, its yield, which has bested Yale’s in recent years. That wait-and-see approach mirrors the way Yale went about reforming its financial aid policy in 2004 — announcing changes in March 2005, a year after Harvard saw a spike in applicants following similar reforms.

Then as now, Harvard’s stated goal was to bolster recruitment among students from low-income backgrounds, a perennial goal for the nation’s top schools. But Yale’s consideration of an end to early admissions follows a statement Levin issued earlier this week arguing that it is unclear whether such a change will markedly aid this goal.

“It is not clear that eliminating Early Admissions will result in the admission of more students from low-income families,” Levin said in the statement. “Since such students are underrepresented in the Ivy League applicant pool, what is really needed is what Harvard, Yale and others have been doing in recent years: that is making efforts to increase the pool of low-income students who apply and strengthening the financial aid packages they receive.”

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said Levin should seek to deliberate on the early admissions question for as long as is necessary.

“You wouldn’t want a president who runs Yale based on what Harvard does,” Nassirian said. “It is actually quite frankly the kind of thoughtful reaction you would want from a university president. You don’t want him to jump to conclusions, don’t want him to turn the institution on a dime.”

David Hawkins, the director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said he thinks it is unlikely that Harvard’s move will spark a paradigm shift in other schools’ admissions policies. Early admissions is attractive to universities due to the increasing difficulty in recent years in predicting the yield of students who accept an offer of admission, Hawkins said, and most universities are unlikely to spurn short-term yield gains in favor of long-term growth in low-income recruiting.

“Colleges from Ivy Leagues on down would be hesitant to completely abandon these policies for fear of losing a significant percentage of applicants to schools that do have early admissions program,” Hawkins said.

The Faculty Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid Policy will weigh the possibility of ending early admissions this year, Levin said, and the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest decision-making body, will begin to discuss the issue at its meeting this month.

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