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Article: Direct Admissions Boosts Applications, but Not Enrollment

by Susan H. Greenberg, Inside Higher Ed. / Aug 28, 2023

From Inside Higher Ed: A large-scale study, authored in part by EPOL professor Jennifer Delaney, finds that guaranteeing free, simplified admission increases college applications for minoritized, low-income, and first-gen students, but cost still deters them from enrolling.

Students offered direct admission to college were 12 percent more likely to apply to a postsecondary institution but no more likely than those who applied through traditional channels to enroll, according to a new large-scale study released Tuesday.

Jennifer Delaney, a professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one of the study’s authors, said the findings—which are “fairly consistent” with previous, smaller-scale studies—underscore the benefit of direction admission as a “lighter-touch” intervention in promoting college attendance.

“It is effective in moving things, but it’s not a silver bullet in solving everything in terms of advancing equity, increasing access, and then on the enrollment end, it’s not touching that so much,” she said. “But it’s also not intervening at that part of the process.”

The new study, which looked at nearly 32,000 students for the 2021–22 academic year, used Common App data to determine the impact of direct admissions on application and enrollment outcomes. Researchers randomly assigned students who had created a Common App profile either to receive a direct admissions offer and application fee waiver or to be part of the “business as usual” control group. Six higher ed institutions—a mix of public and private, and varying in size and location—participated, setting their own GPA threshold for automatic admission somewhere between 2.5 and 3.3.

The results showed that students who received direct admission offers were nearly twice as likely as those who didn’t apply to the institution that made the offer and 2.7 percentage points more likely to apply to any college or university. They responded most enthusiastically to offers from larger, higher-quality institutions.

This article was published at Inside Higher Ed. Read the entire story here.