For the first time in 14 years, rejected college applicants this year will have a hard time blaming unfavorable demographics for their “we regret to inform you” letters.
National graduation rates have skyrocketed since 1994 at the same time that schools have witnessed a comparable expansion of the college-applicant pool, in what a recent College Board/ACT study called a second baby boom. But according to a report released last week by those two organizations and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the 2008-’09 academic year will be the first in the past 14 years to experience a reversal of this trend.
While these demographic changes likely will not affect the calibre of students admitted to Yale, students and administrators said, the study indicated that the racial diversity of American college students nationwide will be enhanced as a result.
This year’s 3.34 million high-school graduates will be the most ever recorded and will maintain that distinction until 2017, the study found; 3.32 million students are expected to graduate from high school next year.
The decrease in the overall number of high-school graduates will likely shrink the college-applicant pool, the study reported. But Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said a possible decrease in high-school seniors applying to Yale will most likely be offset by the University’s new financial-aid policy, which will attract more students to apply.
“In any case, the total number of applications is not a very meaningful statistic,” Brenzel said. “What’s important is the number of highly competitive applications, and I feel fairly certain that Yale will continue to receive a very high number of these regardless of demographic trends.”
Peggy Liu ’11 also said she is not concerned that the quality of students admitted to Yale will suffer. There are plenty of perfectly qualified candidates who are rejected every year, she said, and those students will more than make up for the smaller college-age population.
But a regional breakdown of the data suggests not every area of the country will witness a decrease in high-school graduates. The West and South will see the number of students receiving their diplomas increase five and 10 percent, respectively, between 2007-’08 and 2021-’22.
The disparity is due in large part to rising graduation rates among minorities, specifically Hispanic students. The study found that the number of Hispanic graduates will increase exponentially over the next several years — it is projected that there will be a 54-percent increase in Hispanic graduates by 2015. The collective class of 2010 in the Western states will be the first “majority minority” class in history, meaning that fewer than 50 percent of the graduating students are Caucasian.
“Such diversity holds rich promise for our country — not just for our culture but also for our economy,” read a WICHE press release accompanying the study results.
But this trend may also present challenges for educators across the country. Annie Finnigan, communications manager at WICHE, said it will now become the responsibility of state governments to devote greater care to college preparation for Hispanic students.
“We need to think about the fact that we are going to have larger numbers of [college] students who are less prepared than students have been in the past,” Finnigan said. “That is why this study is so useful — it can alert policy makers to future problems.”
Finnigan also said the study should encourage universities to reach out to minority students, as they will soon comprise an even greater portion of their student bodies.
Angelina Calderón ’10, moderator of MEChA at Yale, said the increase in Latino graduates will likely affect the Yale population, but despite predictions that current college preparation will have to be improved, they would not necessarily be less prepared than other students.
“That would imply that the Latino students coming to Yale are not prepared to handle academics,” Calderon said. “I believe everyone who is admitted has the potential to excel in their academic work here.”
The study, Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State and Race/Ethnicity, was released March 18.