Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Swarthmore has offered 959 students a spot in the Class of 2013, and hopes to yield a class of 390 from those offers. The college received the second-highest number of applications ever—5,574—a drop of around 10% from last year, but “still a 34 percent improvement from four years ago,” according to Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90.
The decrease “was even across the board… we were up in terms of Hispanic/Latino applications, which mirrors the demographic trend. As the 17 year old population starts to decrease, there’s a big decrease in the Northeast and Midatlantic and an increase in the South and West… we want to reach out to where population growth is happening, so that’s an encouraging sign.”
The college continues to look for a diverse class. Fifty-two percent of all accepted students identify as domestic students of color, with Asian Americans making up 18 percent of the admitted class, Latino/a students 18 percent, African Americans 15 percent and Native Americans one percent. Other demographics are available at the college press release.
There were a record number of Early Decision applications—497—with 166 students admitted early decision, or 42% of the class. Bock explained that “every year we lose a handful of early decision families who feel that they can’t afford it… usually that number is two to three, and I thought it might double this year, but it did not. This year it was three, last year it was three.”
Bock added that “a higher percentage of our pool applied for financial aid… 72 percent of this year’s applicants are requesting fin-aid assistance, 69 percent requested that last year, and we know more people are going to check that box this year… we don’t yet know how many will qualify.” Early Decision applicants also requested financial aid in higher numbers than last year, “but essentially the same number qualified.”
Bock continued, “because of the economy, it’s hard to say what the yield will be… we’re committed to financial aid, we’ve actually upped the financial aid budget to accommodate what the extra need might be… but what will the tolerance be for a family’s ability to pay their fair share?” An uncertain financial future might be a factor in students choosing to attend public institutions rather than Swarthmore.
With the economy so present in thoughts about the admitted students, how is it affecting the day-to-day operations of the admissions office? “We’re looking at travel, specifically for professional conferences as opposed to recruiting. It’s never been more important to recruit and now is not the time to pull back… so instead of sending everyone to one national and one regional conference, I might just send them to one regional conference.”
A related cut-back is in dues to regional professional associations. “We maintained our memberships on the national level, because we want to get Swarthmore’s name out there, and we’ve maintained Pennsylvania, but we can skip New England for a few years.”
Bock also spoke about “renegotiating contracts with vendors, the people who print our publications… we’re a good client and companies don’t want to lose our business, so people have been pretty responsive.”
Another instance of creative cost-cutting is for college fairs. “We’re doing a little less spring travel… if we can send a local alum to a college fair instead of flying a Dean out there, we will.”
The Ride the Tide budget has not been cut. “If we have to cut, we’re going to cut in outreach as opposed to yield… we’re placing priorities on yield and bringing in the class versus outreach. Going to one less high school won’t hurt, handing out one less brochure, but I want to bring in the students who belong here.”
Cuts also reflect a priority placed on face-to-face contact. “We’re keeping the same number for Discovery Weekend… bodies you bring to campus are much more real than brochures or mailings.”
Has the office considered raising the application fee? “We’re looking at everything… we now require a $25 deposit to reserve your spot at Ride the Tide for people who go through the travel agent, and we thought about raising that, but we didn’t want to harm low-income families.”
Bock concluded, “I’ve been pleased with the response by the staff and how conscientious folks have been about bringing ideas to me… I’m heartened by all the hard work and effort people have put in.”