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December 18, 2009 1:41 PM Despite Economy, Early Decision Programs Still Strong

By Daniel Luzer

Many higher education critics have attacked colleges’ early decision programs for being elitist. The early decision process generally requires a student to enroll in his top school, if admitted. Because of this the practice tends to favor those with money, students and families who don’t need to consider different financial aid offers.

At least in theory then, when the economy slows down, so should early decisions applications. Because these days more students and families might need to weigh their financial offers, early application programs were expected to shrink.

Eh, not so much. From the New York Times comes news that:

Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Dartmouth said that they, too, received substantially more applications for their early-decision programs this year than they did last — though Cornell, Brown and Hopkins said they had admitted fewer students early than they did a year ago.

In fact, it’s sort of unclear that the economy had any impact on selective college admissions at all. Yale and Williams saw a decline in early applications. But Stanford and MIT got more applications under their early programs. (The Times posted the numbers here.)

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer