Private College Enrollment Projected to Hold Steady for Fall 2009

July 20, 2009

Multiple Campus Steps Taken to Maintain Affordability for Students

Tony Pals,
office: 202-739-0474 cell: 202-288-9333

Click here to view detailed results.

WASHINGTON, DC, July 20 -- A survey of nearly 300 private, nonprofit colleges and universities finds that undergraduate enrollment for fall 2009 is projected to increase slightly-by an average of 0.2 percent-over fall 2008. Overall student enrollment (undergraduate and graduate students) at these institutions is projected to increase by 0.1 percent over fall 2008.

Increased funding for Pell Grants and other federal student aid programs was widely credited for helping to maintain student educational choice, while more generous institutional student aid policies; lower-than-usual tuition increases; salary and hiring freezes; and more flexible admissions practices were commonly cited campus responses to the economic downturn.

"The nation's students and families are facing unprecedented financial challenges, and many are struggling to afford college without taking on excessive debt," said David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. "Private college presidents are aware of the difficulties facing consumers, and are doing what they can within their institutional means to enhance affordability.

"Recent increases in federal student aid have made a huge difference for our students," Warren said. "We thank Congress, the Obama administration, and the American people for helping students during these challenging times. There still are difficult days ahead for many students, and their institutions of higher education, but the federal government's actions this past year have given consumers a reason for hope."

Survey Highlights

  • Undergraduate enrollment at private, nonprofit colleges and universities for fall 2009 is projected to increase slightly-by an average of 0.2 percent-over fall 2008.*

  • Nearly 57 percent of responding institutions reported an increase or no change in paid deposits, by May 15, for fall enrollment compared to last year.*

  • Majorities projected an increase or no change in new undergraduate students (67.9 percent), returning undergraduate students (74.3 percent), and transfer undergraduate students (76.5 percent) for the fall term compared to last year.*

  • A majority of respondents accepted a higher number of regular applicants versus last year. More than one-third accepted late applications or extended the recruiting cycle.

  • More than 90 percent of responding institutions said Pell Grant and Stafford Loan increases had a positive impact on their students. Two-thirds reported that Federal Work-Study increases were helpful or very helpful.

  • More than half of responding institutions reported they increased tuition for 2009-10 at less than their historical average. Nearly 30 percent said they increased tuition at lower-than-expected rates. Five percent froze tuition at the previous year's rate.

  • Eight in 10 responding institutions reported an increase in fall 2009 student aid applications versus fall 2008.

  • A majority of institutions reported they responded more positively to more student aid appeals, and increased the size of institutional aid awards. More than three-quarters of respondents reported they increased institutional aid awards over last year. Only five percent reported smaller institutional awards.

  • Three-quarters of responding institutions reported an increase in federal grants in aid packages, and nearly half reported a decrease in expected family contribution levels.

  • Slightly more than half of respondents reported in increase in federal student loans in aid packages, and nearly a third reported an increase in private loans.

  • Nearly 40 percent of responding institutions report that due to the recession, they had students stop out of school in the 2008-09 academic year or for the fall 2009 term. One-fourth of responding institutions reported they had students switch to part-time status. Slightly more than half reported they had students who are working more hours or borrowing more through private sources.

  • About half of the responding institutions that increased institutional aid to students for fall 2009 reported they generated funds through increased tuition revenue and cuts in other institutional budget areas. Other means for boosting institutional student aid funds included increasing fund raising/gift revenue and drawing down more funds from endowments.

  • Approximately half of the responding institutions reported they froze salaries and new hiring. About 40 percent reported they restricted staff travel and slowed down current construction and renovation projects. Approximately one-third delayed maintenance and gave smaller-than-usual salary increases.

* Projected and actual fall 2009 enrollment figures may differ more than in previous years, given the unusually unpredictable admissions season.

Detailed Summary of Findings:
Click here for a detailed summary of findings, as well as the full survey report (including qualitative campus responses).

NAICU serves as the unified national voice of independent higher education. With more than 1,000 member institutions and associations, NAICU reflects the diversity of private, nonprofit higher education in the United States. NAICU members enroll 90 percent of all students attending private institutions. They include traditional liberal arts colleges, major research universities, church- and faith-related institutions, historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions, single-sex colleges, art institutions, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.


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