2022 Inside Higher Ed The survey of college and university admissions directors comes at a time of significant changes for admissions, with more changes coming soon: The Supreme Court will hear two cases involving affirmative action next month. The importance of standardized testing in admissions is greatly diminished by the pandemic (and the possibility of the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action). And the new admissions method, in which students provide a portfolio but don’t actually apply to colleges, is gaining favor among most colleges that aren’t competitive in traditional admissions.
At the same time, most colleges continue their efforts to build their classes to follow the groups of students they want. Faculties, however, continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key findings of the 2022 survey, in which 271 respondents participated, are:
- Only 36 percent of admissions officers report that their institution met its student enrollment goals this year before May 1.
- Just under half of admissions officers expect their fall 2022 enrollment to be larger than fall 2021. Only about a quarter of admissions officers expect it to be smaller.
- Only about one-quarter of admissions officers report that the coronavirus pandemic has not changed which students they admit.
- Fewer than one-tenth of admissions officers report requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. A little less than half were an optional test or a blind test before the pandemic, while the other half changed the application process and now the test is optional or a blind test.
- Of the admissions officers whose institutions have converted to optional or blind admissions, most want their college to remain optional or blind forever.
- Less than a quarter of respondents responded positively to new portfolios that could replace traditional admissions.
- While nearly half of admissions officers prefer the Supreme Court to rule in favor of affirmative action plans at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (and nearly half said they don’t know), half think the court will against them.
- One quarter of institutions reviewed their affirmative action policies but made few changes.
The issue of affirmative action has occasionally reached the Supreme Court in the past, dating back to the 1978 Bakka decision and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), in which the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action plan. . Notably, then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor opined that the Court “expects that in 25 years the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to advance the interest granted today.”
More about the survey
Inside Higher EdThe 2022 survey of college and university admissions officers was conducted in collaboration with researchers from Hanover Research. Inside Higher Ed regularly polls key higher education experts on a range of topics.
All answers are anonymous.
You can download the full research report here.
On Wednesday, October 19, at 2 PM Eastern, Inside Higher Ed will present a free webcast to discuss the survey results. Apply here.
The Inside Higher Ed the admissions director survey was made possible in part by the support of Niche, CampusReel and Motimatic.
Past research by the author Inside Higher Ed of directors of admissions institutes found great support for positive measures in university admissions.
This year’s survey showed support remains strong, but there are doubts about what the court will do. Only 10 percent of CEOs expect the Supreme Court to rule in favor of affirmative action.
As colleges prepare for a possible Supreme Court decision against affirmative action, the 2022 survey found that institutions are not making dramatic changes.
Reactions to the survey results were mixed.
Shirley J. Wilcher, executive director of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity, said by email: “We will not speculate on what the Supreme Court may do. The court can surprise us, just like before. Also, it’s not really a “win or lose” thing. There are many possible outcomes such as previous decisions, e.g. Grandmothers and Grutterthey showed.”
Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing Harvard and UNC in two Supreme Court cases, said: “It is confusing and disappointing that after nearly eight years of litigation, so few admissions offices are willing to end racial and ethnic classifications and preferences , if the Supreme Court rules that these polarizing practices are unconstitutional. This suggests that admissions officers did not take Justice O’Connor’s 25-year limit on racial preferences seriously.”
Changes in what is required of students
Affirmative action cases have also contributed (along with COVID-19, to be sure) to the massive growth of the voluntary testing movement. While colleges cited the pandemic in their decisions, many said (privately) that they were also beginning to consider affirmative action cases.
Only 7 percent of admissions officers report requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. Forty-three percent of admissions officers reported that their institution was test-optional or test-blind before the pandemic, and 50 percent said they changed their application process and are now optional or test-blind.
Of those who reported that their policies had changed during the pandemic, 54 percent said they had seen an increase in applications from black, Hispanic and Native American students. And 58 percent admitted more black, Hispanic and Native American students.
Forty-seven percent of that group said they admitted more students who needed financial aid to enroll. But only 37 percent of those in that group said their college officials “express concern about an increase in the percentage of students who need financial aid to enroll.”
Of those who have recently moved to an optional testing policy, 67 percent strongly support it, and 22 percent somewhat support “remaining optional or test-blind forever.”
Equity concerns also prompt some college admissions officers (and high school counselors) to advocate for fewer students taking Advanced Placement calculus and more students taking other advanced high school math courses, such as statistics. They believe most students would benefit more from other courses, and note that high schools with high black and Hispanic students are less likely to offer math than high schools with high white and Asian students.
College admissions directors are split on the issue of discouraging calculus: 13 percent strongly support the idea, while 21 percent favor the idea; 3 percent are strongly opposed to the idea, and 7 percent are somewhat opposed to the idea. A majority (55 percent) said they neither supported nor opposed the idea.
A similar division can be found on letters of recommendation. Most four-year colleges require them for admission, but some say they favor affluent white students because those students tend to attend public and private high schools where teachers have time to focus on them, so some admissions directors want colleges to excluded from the admission process.
Sixteen percent of the participants in the survey are strongly in favor of the idea of stopping their use, while 21 percent somewhat support the idea. Nine percent strongly oppose the idea, and 20 percent somewhat. More than a third (34 percent) neither support nor oppose the idea.
Over the past year, legacy admissions preferences — which help students whose parents or other relatives attended the college they’re applying to — have drawn more criticism. The main criticism concerns fairness. Although members of any ethnic or racial group can be probate, probate overwhelmingly favors white, wealthy applicants. With the recent decisions of Johns Hopkins University and Amherst College to end the old admissions process, some have predicted that many other colleges will follow suit. To this day they haven’t.
Thirteen percent of admissions officers said they favor heritage in some way. Admissions managers from private institutions (20 percent) are more likely than those from public institutions (3 percent) to report that their institution gives some degree of preference to older applicants. (Some public institutions count legacies as in-state applicants if they are from another state.)
However, support for older admissions (among those who responded to the survey) is minimal. When asked to respond to the statement “Institutions should give some degree of preference to legacy applicants over non-legacy applicants,” only 1 percent strongly agreed and 11 percent somewhat agreed. Fourteen percent of them do not agree at all, and 27 percent somewhat disagree.
Tickets in a new way
One of the biggest changes in admissions is creating a new way to get students into colleges—without the students ever applying to college. Students create a portfolio with their grades and coursework and anything else they want to showcase their skills. Companies hire faculty to look at portfolios and invite some students to apply. Some colleges operate the system themselves, and the Common Application and the state of Minnesota have programs. Highly competitive colleges have not adopted the system, but dozens of other colleges are now involved.
Inside Higher Ed raised a question about the new approach. But at the time the survey was published, only one article had appeared Inside Higher Ed about the concept. Results:
The numbers expressing support for this new admissions system may seem relatively small (less than a quarter of respondents), but this is the first year that advocates for this new admissions approach are really visible and active. And assuming colleges with competitive admissions aren’t advocating such a transition, the numbers can be impressive.
Joe Morrison, CEO of Concourse, one of the companies in the space, said the results were “very promising.”
The system now offered by Concourse and others simply makes more sense for many students, especially those from low-income families, he said. Colleges naturally want to know more about each applicant, he said, “but if you ask too many questions, you create barriers.”
A difficult year
This year continued the trends of recent years, with relatively few colleges filling their classes by May 1st (or even July 1st). However, there are some signs of (modest) improvement.
Only 36 percent of colleges in the survey filled their classes by May 1, the traditional date by which students respond to offers of admission. Last year it was 32 percent.
Inside Higher Ed also asks about filling the class up to two later dates. Of the 174 colleges that did not meet their class goals by May 1, 17 percent met their goals by June 1. And of the 144 colleges that still hadn’t met the goals by June 1, 10 percent said they would do so by July 1.
Twenty percent said they were likely to accept students next year who would not have been accepted in the past.
As for this year’s classes, 26 percent said they expected a smaller class than they admitted last year, 31 percent said it would be the same, and 43 percent said they expected more enrollment.
Among those who expected a decline, most expected smaller declines: 43 percent expected it to be less than 5 percent, and 34 percent thought it would be between 5 percent and less than 10 percent.
Goals for next year
One question is about the goals for next year. Minority students and full-time undergraduates have the highest priority.