Skip to main content

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 included here, but this initial view is filtered down to just 70, all with an admit rate at or below 25%.  To make it interesting, I plotted admit rate (x-axis) against the percentage of core revenues from tuition and fees.  Then, I sized the bubbles by the draw rate, and colored by what I call "freshman importance."

A few words about those points:

Admit rate means the percentage of freshman applicants offered admission.  (If you want to narrow or broaden this, use the filter at the top).

Percentage of core revenue from tuition and fees is just that.  In IPEDS, it's defined as "revenues from all tuition and fees assessed against students (net of refunds and discounts and allowances) for educational purposes." Core Revenues do not include hospital revenues, but do include research dollars.  Essentially, it tells you where a college gets the revenue it needs to operate.

Draw rate is yield rate/admit rate.  It's a measure of market power.  Stanford's is 20; the national average is about 0.4.  It's a better indicator than selectivity.

And freshman importance is the size of the freshman class divided by total headcount enrollment.  You'd think this might be close to about 25% at most liberal arts colleges, but at major research universities, it's much lower. 

Look especially at the lower left of this chart.  These are all the names you know:  They all have admit rates below 10%; all get less than a third of core revenues from tuition and fees, are large (that is, large draw rates), and are more likely to be orange (where freshman are of lesser importance to the overall enterprise.)  If you want to find an institution, type part of its name in the Highlight Box.  Hover over a dot for details.

Think about the implications of those variables, and think about how much the April admissions press releases mean to the reputation of these institutions, and then ask yourself if this makes sense.

(I bet you'll think not.)  As always, let me know if you have questions or spot anything especially interesting.

Reminder: I appreciate support for webhosting and other costs associated with creating Higher Ed Data Stories.  You can support these efforts here.


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

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