What Do Admissions Deposits Portend for Yield?

For enrollment managers and college admission officers at higher education institutions, determining which recruiting actions are necessary after May 1 can be tricky. It’s a time to assess the numbers—such as changes in deposits in relation to changes in admits against the previous year—to find out what just happened and what needs to be corrected. Of course, the situation gets more complicated for all of senior leadership if student attrition is another variable in the overall assessment of enrollment management and what impacts tuition revenues. Ideally, the analysis can inform data-based decisions about what yield activities should come next to prevent summer melt and attrition or, in many cases, about how to bring in the rest of the class.

And considering national trends, that task is only getting harder. The average yield rate among NACAC institutions continues its long-term decrease and now stands at 36%. And after three years of increases, this spring enrollment dropped year-over-year at private colleges—most notably, a 2.4% decrease at those enrolling fewer than 3,000 students—accompanied by a larger-than-usual decline in fall to spring enrollment. Meanwhile, families’ financial concerns persist as they struggle to save for college and witness average student loan indebtedness climb higher for this spring’s college graduates.

As if all of that weren’t enough for enrollment managers to worry about, now is also the time for ramping up their efforts to recruit next year’s entering class. Yet even as they address audiences inhabiting two different stages of the admission process, there’s one message that can and should be delivered consistently to both: the worth of the college’s value proposition.


Yield Drops

NACAC’s “State of College Admissions” shows the yield rate for private institutions was 34.3% for Fall 2013.

Enrollment Drops

Spring semester enrollment declined at four-year private nonprofit institutions, says Clearinghouse data.

Savings Drop

Sallie Mae found the amount that parents have set aside for college declined 25% since last year.


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The month of May presents a conundrum as Decision Day has evolved to become a catalyst for consternation for senior leadership—and increasingly, entire campus communities—as they wonder what is real and what is necessary. The phenomenon of multiple deposits, along with families’ delayed decision behaviors (influenced by rational return on investment concerns as well as simply emotional uncertainty), can heat up summer melt for many colleges.

The question nonetheless for so much of higher education today is whether the glass is half full or half empty. Obviously the month of May is an important time for reflection—not only to continue to focus on the yield for this year’s entering class, but also to adapt accordingly for the next recruitment cycle. No matter what, now is the time to discern, decide, and do.