News analysis: Despite economy, yield holds steady

In the face of a souring economy, the Yale Admissions Office predicted early this year that fewer admitted students would decide to attend, and so to compensate, the office initially accepted a greater number of students than it did in past years.

But Yale was caught off guard. The College’s yield rate did not drop, but rather it remained steady at 68.7 percent — nearly identical to last year’s yield at this time. Yale’s peer schools also saw little or no change in their yield this year, most likely because their strong financial aid programs acted as admissions buffers in the midst of the recession.

In recent interviews, a half-dozen college counselors said Yale’s yield has held strong for two reasons: first, families that do not qualify for aid are willing to do what it takes, financially speaking, to send their children to New Haven; and second, families that do qualify for aid are comforted by Yale’s commitment to its financial aid program.

“Families, even when there’s financial hardship, will make sacrifices to make sure their student will attend the school,” said Mary Anne Modzelewski, director of college guidance at Sandia Prep in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

And with Yale’s promise to maintain its recently expanded financial aid program, many families will not need to make sacrifices to send their children to Yale, said Sari Rauscher, director of college counseling at the Waterford School in Salt Lake City.

“For students with more need, Yale is as appealing as going to a state university financially,” she said. “Those with need won’t necessarily pay much more than if they go to a state university.”

Yield rates have remained relatively flat at several of Yale’s peer schools this year. Harvard University saw no change in its yield compared to last year, still steady at 76 percent, according to the school’s office of public affairs.

Princeton University saw a slight rise in its yield rate, up to 59.7 percent as of May 8, compared to 58.6 percent at the same time last year, Director of Admissions Janet Rapelye said.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology saw its yield rate drop only one percentage point this year, down to 65 percent from 66 percent, MIT Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill said, and the University of Pennsylvania also saw a small drop in its yield, down to 63 percent from 66 percent, the Daily Pennsylvanian reported.

But Yale and its peers comprise a short list of schools that are enticing enough for families to choose despite their cost, said Sarah Boocock-Beyreis ’85, director of college counseling at Cincinnati Country Day School.

“We’ve definitely seen students choose merit programs at public universities over other private colleges that are equally good and just as expensive, but not quite as famous [as Yale],” she said.

Smaller liberal arts colleges, such as Wesleyan University, have been harder hit, with many of them moving to accept students from their waitlists, the half-dozen college counselors interviewed said. Even some of Yale’s peer schools in the Ivy League — including Harvard and Princeton — have turned to their waitlists this year.

While Brenzel said in March that he believed Yale would admit students from the waitlist this year, he no longer has this expectation. In fact, Yale is currently oversubscribed by 17 students, and Brenzel said he expects to accept “very few, if any” waitlisted applicants. Fortunately for Yale, although 1,327 students said they plan to enter the Yale freshman class in the fall, Brenzel said some of these students will inevitably change their minds.

“Every year we lose a few students as other schools go to waitlists or as students decide to postpone,” he said in an e-mail. “We therefore still expect to come in close to our target number of 1310.”

Yale’s early and regular yield rates were almost exactly the same as last year, when the early yield was 80 percent and the overall yield was 68.7 percent, Brenzel said.

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