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Archive for May, 2016|Monthly archive page

The Usual Suspects: Admissions Resultsfor the Ivy League and West Coast Favorites

In College Application Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data on May 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

Who should read this article:  Anybody interested in applying to an Ivy League or U.C. school, oh yes, and Stanford.   I also include my opening discussion for the class of 2021 on brand, status and the Tesla test.

How many Teslas have you seen with college stickers on the back window?

Me neither, and I drive the highways  in the most Tesla-dense region in the country as I visit area clients.  I’ll get back to that after we get to some data, below.

So how bad was the application season?  Depends on where you applied.  Applications to the Ivies, Stanford, and some of their analogues and safety schools, which will be the topic of this post,  were very, very difficult.  Your leading example is Stanford, which dropped below a 5% admissions rate for the first time this year–and was the first university to do this. Applying to Stanford increasingly resembles playing the lottery for most applicants. Applications to hundreds of non-name brands and international options, not so much. Food for thought, and a topic I will discuss again soon.

Onward, to some of this year’s data:

University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Number of Applicants / %Accepted*

Stanford University . . . . . . . .43,997/4.69

Harvard University . . . . . . . . .39,041/5.2%

Columbia University . . . . . . . .36,292/6.04%

Yale University . . . . . . . . . . . .31,455/6.27%

Princeton University . . . . . . . 29,303/6.46%

Duke University . . . . . . . . . . .28,600/8.7%

Brown University . . . . . . . . . . .32,380/9.0%

University of Pennsylvania  . . 39,918/9.4%

Dartmouth College . . . . . . . . . .20,675/10.525

Northwestern University . . . . .35,099/10.7%

Cornell University . . . . . . . . . .44,966/13.96%

U.C. Berkeley . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82,558 (frosh)/14.8%

U.C.L.A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97,064(frosh),119,326(ttl) No data on % yet.

 

Not a very friendly collection of numbers, is it?  The problem, as usual, is that classic  supply and demand equation in market theory.

 

Sure, there is a long-term structural problem in our economy, and yes, the elite universities offer superb educational opportunities, not to mention the prestige of an Ivy or Stanford sticker on the back windshield, and yes, your college friends can be part of a great network . . . . but the next Mark Zuckerberg is not going to come from a new social media platform at Harvard.   Sure, if you are admitted, go to Harvard (as long as the financials work).  But don’t go just to have the brand, especially if you know of a lesser place with a better deal for you, educationally and financially (is Harvard really the best place to go for software design/engineering?)

One of the most important things I do with college advising clients is help them  develop a wider list of options.  My mantra on target schools is this:  You should always have three tiers of schools in your application list, with the bottom tier being schools for whom your data puts you above the 75th percentile of admissions, the middle tier with schools for which your data makes you an “average” admit, and your reach schools making up the third tier–where your data is at 25% or below, though I add that if your data is below or near the bottom of a college’s admit data, it’s not likely to be worth the time to write the app essays, much less pay the app fee.  The chances of admission always have to be weighed against the strength of your dream, of course, and maybe that fusion reactor you are constructing in your garage will do the trick . . .

I have written about strategy and creating a good college list before, and will write about it again in relation to this year’s application season in the coming months, so look for that.

Much of the overcrowding in the world of college apps  is a result of what an economist would refer to as market distortion–in this case rooted in the growing fear many people have about their economic future and the chances for their children to have a life as prosperous as their own.  This sense of decline in economic prospects is well-documented, as is the reality that fuels these fears, and along with  a focus on a narrow range of well-known brands, you can see the  problem with the information in this particular “market.”

The brand advantage does have a real effect on income when you are first hired in a range of industries, but that effect fades quickly–mid-range income is an indicator of job performance, and job performance comes from an alloy of factors, including how good your education actually was, your motivation, and decision-making on the job.  Which brings me back to that Tesla.

I have not seen a college sticker on the back window of a Tesla.  Well, okay, I have seen a couple, but those were on the back windows of Tesla 3’s   Yep, we already have truckloads of those loose in my part of the world.  The thing about a Tesla, and a college sticker, is two-fold: first both are a statement of status.  Second, both affiliate you with a group of people.

But a Tesla is a status symbol that speaks for itself, environmentally friendly, elegant in design, superb in execution and performance . . . and the one person I currently know who is driving a Tesla Model S went to Humboldt State University (not the Humboldt U in Germany–the Cal State in Northern California, an area more known for certain herbal products than tech).  This person started as an art major, moved to graphic arts and from there focused more and more on Computers . . . and now runs his own medium-sized digital arts company now–a success story showing the power of education and curiosity.

The car he owns because, a, he likes it, and b, he thinks that environmentalism can only succeed if it is not just moral but enjoyable.  His mid-career income is excellent, he loves what he is doing, and he came out of a college that does not get much notice even as a regional school–ranked only 57th as a regional university (West) by U.S. News and World Report.  Something to keep in mind as you churn through rankings and discard schools that are not getting brand recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s News for U.C. Berkeley and The University of California System

In Ivy League Admission Statistics, Researching Colleges, Santa Cruz, Stanford Admissions, U.C. Berkeley Application, UC Santa Cruz Application, University of California, University of California Admissions Data, What They Aren't Telling Us on May 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm

What’s in this column:  Some news on this year’s Berkeley admissions results; a short history of U.C. admissions (why is it getting so crazy–the answer is partly here); some information on budgets and politics at the U.C.  If you do not wish to read more than 140 or so characters at a time, scan for bold print and font color changes to see important data and subtopics.

If no news is good news . . . let’s just say there’s news for the U.C. system and in particular for Berkeley.

My goal here is to put this news–some of which you have likely heard, particularly if you live in California–into perspective.  And I’d like to start by making a simple statement:  the University of California was and still is the greatest university system in the world (sorry, University of London and your 18 campuses–more on them in my coming entry on international options).  And I can say that U.C. will (still) be great you are applying next year, though the bathrooms may not be as clean nor the landscaping as tidy as in earlier days, nor the computer lab repaired and updated quite as often, particularly at Berkeley where–here it is, your first data point for the year–500 employees are being laid off right now.

But before we get to budgetary problems and that massive construction project called U.C. Merced, let’s take a quick look at admissions results for the U.C. Berkeley, which sets the bar for the system as a whole.    I add one caveat:  waitlist admits and transfers are still in process, so the averages I give you here are going to move around  a bit.

Here is the scoop on the numbers for U.C. Berkeley for the 2015-2016 admissions period (a.k.a. the Class of 2020. a.k.a. students applying for the fall of 2016):

U.C. Berkeley Class of 2020 admissions

Average GPA:  3.91  (4.41 Weighted)

SAT:  (25th-75th%) 2075-2237–note that this is the SAT II, including language and math

All together Now:  Holy Bleep!  And for U.C. Berkeley:  Welcome to the newest member of the Ivy League.  No, seriously, in terms of admissions data, they have arrived.  Oh sure, Berkeley is not like Yale, Princeton or Stanford (which dropped below a 5% admissions rate this year).  But they are pretty close to Cornell, which has an admissions rate of 13.96% for the class of 2020.  Again, these numbers will move a bit as waitlist admits occur, but not much, and it tells you what you are facing when you apply next year–to Berkeley or Cornell, which had a 1400-range SAT II average last year.  You have my full sympathy.

Seriously, you do.  I grew up in California, my father worked for the Cal State system, and I have been directly involved with higher education in California in one way or another since the 1980’s.  And frankly, I don’t need a bigger college advising business opportunity than I already have, driven by a supply/demand problem that has been developing since about 1980.  The problem you face is part of a bigger problem involving what used to be called the Commons, particularly troubling when higher education is, in my opinion, the leading industry of the United States, not tech or, um, manufacturing.

Seriously. Silicon Valley exists because of the proximity of a half-dozen universities and cheap, clean water  as much as it does to genius entrepreneurs like Msrs. Hewlett and Packard, Grove and Noyce or to Wunderkind like Wozniak and Jobs (Yes, water-check out early chip production and the archaeology of the Valley here:  Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History) .  The immediate cause for everything from HP on is as much in the universities as it is in the up-by-the-bootstraps mythology.  Hewlett and Packard were both Stanford alums and Woz was a Golden Bear, as are many inhabitants of the Silicon flatlands now. Yeh, Jobs was a dropout, from Reed College, but Reed also shaped him before he left. It’s still a great college, if you can handle the tuition.

So to see the applications difficulty reach this level makes me somewhat cray-cray.  Particularly when I work with California-resident students who visit the campus, see the Cal students, take a walk up Strawberry Canyon to look out over Memorial Stadium, with Mount Tamalpais and the Golden Gate in the distance and . . .  then, having fallen in love withe place, confront an admit rate like that of Cornell.

I will be delivering more detailed advice in upcoming columns on how to deal with this as you develop application strategy, which starts with looking at the full suite of U.C. campuses, as well as at U.C. proxies from British Columbia to destinations yet to be disclosed.  For the moment, let’s turn our attention to another “controversy” that probably adds resentment to those of you who are Californians.

Here it is:  the California State Auditor recently released a “highly critical report” on the U.C. and revealed (gasp) that U.C. is admitting more out-of-state studentsHere is the gist:

“Nonresident enrollment in the UC system increased by 82 percent, or 18,000 students, from 2010-11 to 2014-15, while in-state numbers fell by 1 percent, or 2,200 students”

For some historical perspective, the U.C. system originally admitted the top 12.5% of students in California–then they dropped that to top 10%, and now it’s closer to the top 8%, but this is no longer a solid number that is part of the mission statement for serving Cali students. But none of this is really  news.  The numbers have been out there.  The regents at each stage announced the retreat from California admissions and were clear about budgets and their need for increased funding via out-of-state tuition.  This was not proclaimed on billboards or in radio ads, but they did put it out there for anybody who wanted to pay attention.  And the auditor’s report as well as the  outrage  is highly political, an intentional pot-stirring by an assemblyman working on his career, with Governor Brown lurking somewhere in the background. Not to mention those jumping on the bandwagon, like San Ramon assemblywoman Catherine Baker, who wants to cut taxes, not increase U.C. funding and cap out-of-state enrollment . . . . to fix things . . . .which amounts to promising more with less.  Works pretty well in Zen koans, not so well in running an institution of higher education.  For more on that,  I quote and link the Contra Cost Bee:  “Baker’s approach sounds a lot like the words and actions of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.”

All I can add is this:  if affects your kids–or you–now,  or will affect your kids, you can have an influence.  Read up on my links.  Talk to people about it.  Vote early and vote often.  And then plan around it for admissions.

The enrollment facts are partly due to enrollment policy changes in 1986 and to   a wider effect of disinvestment in public goods (which is a  subject way too large for this column, or any column, for that matter–a book would be needed).  What is annoying to me is the supposed surprise of so many, and the attitude of politicians, who seem to think that funding can freeze and so can tuition.  In particular, I’m looking at  Governor Brown when I say this, and I have voted for Jerry every time he has run for  office.  So message to the Gov:  Sure, for a year or two you can freeze things while you work out your problems, then you have to pay the bills.  And just cutting janitors and tech support is not going to fix the budget for the U.C.

Please note:  I do not think tuition should increase.  But I know more money is needed, and this squeeze will soon begin to affect the U.C. system and Berkeley in particular, in ways students will feel . . . actually it already is happening,  not just in the jobs lost, but also in the support for students that those 500 employees represent.  Need that computer lab to be repaired?  Sorry, maybe next month.  For more, I quote and link this:

“Class sizes are ridiculous and desks are broken,” said Rebecca Ora, a doctoral candidate in film and digital media.

As for the Ivy-League admissions numbers, the enrollment policy change I mention occurred in 1986.  Prior to that year, students could only apply to one U.C. campus; if they were not admitted, they would then be redirected to another campus.  Pretty simple, if limited in terms of choice, and to control the outcome, students chose one campus they preferred and that they felt they had a good chance to be enrolled in. Most were okay if they were shunted from Berkeley to, say, Davis or San Diego.    So keep in mind that some of the crazy numbers for Berkeley–and U.C.L.A.–are driven by the multiple admissions policy as well as by the high, international profile of those campuses.  Pretty much everybody applying to the U.C. system at large applies to Berkeley and Los Angeles, even if they really think Riverside is their real target–Why not, when there is no real downside?

For a quick history of U.C. admission, have a look here:  Frontline on U.C. Admissions

But back to that budget:  here’s the news at U.C. Berkeley–

150 million dollar Budget Deficit

500 Job Cuts

Again, if you do not need to follow the news on state government and education in general, you might find this anywhere from confusing to outrageous–after all, did we not pass proposition 30, thus increasing taxes and so securing funding?  Well, yes we did.  But even then, in 2012, this still left a 1 billion dollar deficit, yep billion with a B, due to funding shortfalls going all the way back to the financial meltdown of 2008-2009 and to not funding obligations back to the turn of the century. Berkeley Chancellor Dirks announced in February of this year that he forecasts a 150 million deficit.

Expect other campuses to have problems as well.  One of the causes is pensions costs, but of course for years the U.C.  stopped contributing to pensions and now the U.C. system as a whole–as part of their budget from the state– must make contributions to catch up.  Lest I sound too much like Catharine Baker, I add that U.C. and therefore the State of California had contracts with pay and benefits that they signed and should stand behind, and that the big decisions were made in the legislature and in the Governor’s office–going back through Schwarzenegger’s time, btw.  In my view, throwing employees overboard after making an agreement in exchange for labor and services is immoral and I know that this would  lead to an exodus of employees that serve students–like that engineering professor who is or will in the near future be teaching your kid–as well as making it harder for U.C. to recruit good profs and support people.

It is true that U.C. has bloat in administration, but technology has led to increasing need for technology administration, as have new requirements for programs and services.  You want somebody to police discrimination or to oversee additional support to ensure graduation rates, you gotta pay for their salaries.

The upside for you, Oh Applicant or Parent of Applicant is that part of the deficit comes from an agreement fought over, excuse me, negotiated between U.C. President Napolitano and Governor Brown, an agreement that freezes tuition while increasing the number of California students by 10,000 over a three-year period.  For the coming application season, this means that an additional 2,500 students from California will be admitted.  So this is good:  the current 13,400 tuition and fees will rise only at about 3% per year and you have a better chance of getting in, Oh California Resident, and a pretty much equal chance to last year, if you are not a state resident.

While the idea that your first-year tuition, if you apply in the fall of 2016 will go up by 3% sounds bad, it’s not, relative to what might have happened.   This 3% per year rise means that in 2020 you will pay about 15,500–but in projections back in 2012-2014, tuition was going to be in the 20,000 dollar range by 2020.  You will save around 12,000 dollars because of this agreement, over four years, if you start school in the fall of 2017.   So more California students will get in, with little impact on out-of-state applicants, and you will pay less than the U.C. planned back on 2014.

My final note is this:  I know that 2,500 admits for California students seems a pittance when there were 206,000 applicants for the U.C. system this year. And it is a paltry number, at 1.2% of that total of over 200,000–but also note that fall 2015 admissions saw 92,324 students admitted out of a total of 158,338 applications.  And it is much better than a decline in California resident enrollment.  So cheer up and apply to Santa Cruz and Riverside and have a good overall list of application targets.  U.C. Merced . .  . better for a transfer after two years in a community college, in my opinion.  More on that in another post.