With administrators across the University preparing for cuts to next year’s budget, recent cutbacks at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer clues as to what changes may come for the Yale Admissions Office.
In a move that may presage the not-too-distant future at Yale, administrators at Harvard and MIT told campus newspapers early this month they will reduce staff and slash travel spending by half and at least one-third, respectively. The offices are acting under orders to cut budgets in the wake of precipitous declines in the universities’ endowments. Harvard’s admissions office is planning a 15 percent budget reduction through the cuts to travel and staff attrition, The Harvard Crimson reported. And MIT’s admissions office has laid off an undisclosed number of staff to meet its targeted 5 percent budget reduction, according to the MIT Tech.
Whether Yale will decide to take similar steps is anyone’s guess. Yale’s Office of Admissions has not yet announced how it will deal with mandatory 7.5 percent cuts in non-faculty staff salaries and non-personnel spending. Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel declined to comment for this article.
MIT Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill would not tell the MIT student newspaper exactly how many or which staffers his office laid off. In an interview, Harvard Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath said only that her office was operating at a lower staffing level than planned and that additional staff cuts are still on the table.
“It is possible that our staffing level will be further reduced, we hope only through attrition,” she wrote in an e-mail message.
But the most visible change for high school students will be the cuts to travel.
Harvard will concentrate the remainder of its travel spending on large-scale events rather than visits to local high schools. MIT will do the same, said Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill, adding that MIT will continue to offer high school visits to schools where “we feel we have to educate students about the opportunities at MIT.”
To compensate for the lack of high school visits, Harvard and MIT will expand their use of the Web as an outreach tool. McGrath said Harvard has plans to redesign its Web site, and added that officers will be increasingly vigilant about contacting students via e-mail and answering questions online. Schmill said MIT will also add new features to its own site, which already includes many student blogs.
Four of five college counselors interviewed Monday said they were sad to see high school visits cut, noting that such visits offered unique face-to-face interaction for students and counselors with admissions officers.
While students have many resources available to use when researching a college, high school visits often add a personal touch to the application process, said Sally Spangler, college counselor at the public La Canada High School, located outside Los Angeles.
“College visits give admissions officers the opportunity to meet a person so that when they read the application, they can put a name to a face,” she said. “I feel that can be very beneficial.”
While it is “regrettable” that colleges are cutting high school visits, said Jane Horn, director of college counseling at the private Kent Denver School in Colorado, she said she understood the decision to prioritize personnel over travel.
“I would rather that they do that than cut their staff,” she said. “It’s one of those difficult times that calls for difficult decisions.”
Still, Horn said she hopes schools like Harvard and MIT will return to the practice of visiting local high schools when the economy — and their budgets — improve.
The Yale Admissions Office currently employs 21 officers, two of which are part-time, as well as Brenzel and Director of Admissions Margit Dahl. Brenzel hired two additional staff members last spring in preparation for an expected rise in applications for the class of 2013, which drew a record-breaking total of about 26,000 applicants.