Skip to main content

How Admissions Has Changed, in One Chart

I frequently hear that the interactive charts I publish are too confusing or time-consuming, and that it's hard to get the story out of them without some work. So today, I'm making it easier for you, for two reasons: First, this is real student data, not summaries: Each dot represents a student who applied for financial aid, so I'd never publish that data on the web; this is just a good, old-fashioned picture of a chart.  Second, in this case, one chart tells the whole story.

The population here is all freshman financial aid applicants who completed a FAFSA but did not have need.

Each column is one year, and each dot in that column represents a student; higher positions in the column show higher income, from zero to one million dollars in parental AGI (adjusted gross income).  This is arrayed in a box-and-whiskers, or box plot.  The yellow boxes show the limits of the middle 50% of the distribution (the "box") with the color break representing the median.  The top whisker (the black horizontal lines) represent the 75th percentile.  In other words, 25% of the applicants have incomes above that line.  The bottom whisker is the lowest 25th percent. Yes, there are people with very low incomes who do not qualify for need-based aid, usually due to large asset bases.

Note the way the black line rises over time, from about $430,000 in 2007 to almost $600,000 in the last two years.  There are several possible explanations for this, all of which are probably valid to some extent.

  • It's a buyer's market, and college recruitment activities have brought in people who are shopping in more places
  • People who never would have applied for aid in prior years are doing so, because the crisis of 2007 has evaporated many assets, like home equity, that people might have used to pay for college
  • Other colleges are requiring a FAFSA for merit aid consideration so we get the FAFSA as a residual.  No one, it seems, is opposed to trying to get a lower cost
  • Colleges are so afraid of losing someone due to price considerations they encourage everyone to "give it a shot" and see if they are eligible.
One note: In 2014 we had 31 applicants whose income was $1,000,000 or more who are not shown here, and who would have brought the distribution up. These people used to show up in prior years as $999,999 dollars, so I took them out for equal comparisons. And, in anticipation of the next bump, we did have one family who reported an AGI of $9,999,999 for 2014 when they completed the FAFSA.

This post shows Financial Aid data, but the title says it's about how admissions has changed. What do you think? How are the two related?




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Baccalaureate origins of doctoral recipients

Here's a little data for you: 61 years of it, to be precise.  The National Science Foundation publishes its data on US doctoral recipients sliced a variety of ways, including some non-restricted public use files that are aggregated at a high level to protect privacy. The interface is a little quirky, and if you're doing large sets, you need to break it into pieces (this was three extracts of about 20 years each), but it may be worth your time to dive in. I merged the data set with my mega table of IPEDS data, which allows you to look at institutions on a more granular level:  It's not surprising to find that University of Washington graduates have earned more degrees than graduates of Whitman College, for instance.  So, you can filter the data by Carnegie type, region or state, or control, for instance; or you can look at all 61 years, or any range of years between 1958 and 2018 and combine it with broad or specific academic fields using the controls. High school and indep

The Highly Rejective Colleges

If you're not following Akil Bello on Twitter, you should be.  His timeline is filled with great insights about standardized testing, and he takes great effort to point out racism (both subtle and not-so-subtle) in higher education, all while throwing in references to the Knicks and his daughter Enid, making the experience interesting, compelling, and sometimes, fun. Recently, he created the term " highly rejective colleges " as a more apt description for what are otherwise called "highly selective colleges."  As I've said before, a college that admits 15% of applicants really has a rejections office, not an admissions office.  The term appears to have taken off on Twitter, and I hope it will stick. So I took a look at the highly rejectives (really, that's all I'm going to call them from now on) and found some interesting patterns in the data. Take a look:  The 1,132 four-year, private colleges and universities with admissions data in IPEDS are incl

So you think you're going back to the SAT and ACT?

Now that almost every university in the nation has gone test-optional for the 2021 cycle out of necessity, a nagging question remains: How many will go back to requiring tests as soon as it's possible?  No one knows, but some of the announcements some colleges made sounded like the kid who only ate his green beans to get his screen time: They did it, but they sure were not happy about it.  So we have some suspicions about the usual suspects. I don't object to colleges requiring tests, of course, even though I think they're not very helpful, intrinsically biased against certain groups, and a tool of the vain.  You be you, though, and don't let me stop you. However, there is a wild card in all of this: The recent court ruling prohibiting the University of California system from even using--let alone requiring--the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions next fall.  If you remember, the Cal State system had already decided to go test blind, and of course community colleges in