College application season rears its ugly head again this fall, as millions of Americans and international students eagerly apply for a limited number of spots. Yearly, the number of applicants rise, but total enrollment stays stagnant, making each year more competitive than the previous.
Princeton University takes the spot as the fabled “Best University in America” according to the U.S. News and World Report. Like most institutions, Princeton is getting more difficult than ever to enter.
With an incredible 3.98% acceptance rate, over 35,000 applicants were rejected by Princeton in 2021. This represents almost half the acceptance rate a decade prior, which was nearly 8%. Furthermore, while Princeton claims “There are no cutoffs” for admission, median admitted ACT scores range from 33-35, a test which many criticize as unfair.
According to The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, “ACT scores do not predict college performance effectively,” and “ACT test scores have long been used as a tool of segregation” as ACT performance is strongly correlated with income and race. Nevertheless, prestigious universities like Princeton continue to boast their students’ high ACT scores on admissions pages.
Not great odds, but this is Princeton we’re talking about, one of the world’s leading universities.
However, it is not just Princeton feeling the crunch, our own Franklin & Marshall College is also an excellent example of this nationwide trend.
In 2012, F&M admitted almost 40% of students. In 2019, that number was 30%, a 10% decline in only seven years, making F&M significantly more competitive in a relatively short window of time.
What’s with the squeeze on admissions? Simply put, there’s not enough room for incoming students.
Roughly half of Americans (representing 150 million people) will seek higher education within their lifetimes. This is remarkably more people than the 1950s, when modern higher education took off with the G.I. Bill.
The original G.I. Bill, enacted in 1944, gave returning veterans vocational training and financial assistance to attend college. Half of returning servicemen used their G.I. funds, sending 7 million veterans to college or the skilled workforce. This swelled the number of enrolled students in America, with the number of college degrees awarded doubling from 1940 to 1950.
Since 1965, the number of students in America has roughly tripled, rising from under 6 million to almost 19 million. This has required some universities to massively expand their enrollments, such as UCLA and USC in California.
These rival institutions are both home to over 50,000 students, representing more people than the city of Lancaster. Despite their massive enrollments, both universities have small acceptance rates – 8.6% and 9.9% respectively.
To be a Bruin or Trojan, you’ll have to be a lucky candidate in a field of almost 150,000 applicants clamoring for your spot. However, ten years ago, the same students struggling for admission to USC or UCLA would be shoe-ins for spots at these universities. As acceptance rates plummet due to high demand, well-qualified applicants are turned away.
This may have rippling effects throughout the American public, as access to elite institutions narrows. Additionally, the rising costs of education is squeezing lower and middle class Americans into debt, calling into question if a college education is worth the steep cost.
As admission becomes more difficult, a solution will be necessary to handle the windfall in degree-seekers. Increased government funding could alleviate some of these issues, like when the G.I. Bill gave veterans funding for higher education – which is still available, for anyone looking for an easy way to settle some debts! If you’re willing and able-bodied to enlist in the armed forces for several years to clear the burden of college debts.
Freshman Richie Dockery is a Staff Writer. His email is email@example.com.