Ithaca College Paying Students To Delay Enrollment

By Staff
October 12, 2009

Faced with a freshman class that is 20 percent larger than expected, Ithaca College in New York is paying 31 students as much as $10,000 each to delay attending the school for a year.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that many colleges are seeing soaring enrollment this year, but the situation at Ithaca is considered to be out of the ordinary. "It's an extreme case of what we're likely to see in other places," explained John C. Nelson, managing director of the division at Moody's Investors Service that rates colleges' debt.

Officials noted that a combination of circumstances at the institution contributed to over-enrollment, including lowering selectivity, changing its merit-aid policy so funds could be spread among more applicants, and intensifying "yield" efforts to ensure that more admitted students would attend. As with many colleges anxious about admissions, the changes were prompted by concerns about the impact of the economy.

"We didn't know how many families would be able to afford the price of a private higher education," pointed out Carl Sgrecci, the college's vice president for finance and administration.

"The size of the class only became apparent at the very end of April," added Jim Mica, a research specialist in the admissions office at Ithaca who was quoted in The New York Times. "Until that time the trend indicated that the class would be on target."

The increased enrollment will result in extra spending for financial aid, for additional instructors, and for a new temporary residence hall which cost $2.5 million. College officials will also very likely aim for smaller classes in the future.

Meanwhile, the students who accepted the $10,000 to defer enrollment are taking the opportunity to expand their horizons. "We've got one student who is taking this year to teach English in Costa Rica," noted Eric Maguire, Ithaca's vice president of enrollment, who was quoted by WSYR-TV in Syracuse. He added that there are others who "are traveling to England, Australia, Spain, Peru, some that are working in their local communities in service projects."

The Chronicle reports that Ithaca is also offering $2,000 to upperclassmen to move off campus. In addition, the college is reducing room charges by 20 percent to students being housed in lounges and providing them with free cable TV.

Nevertheless, according to Carl Sgrecci, Ithaca's vice president for finance and administration, the school expects to benefit financially from the over-enrollment. "It's certainly better than the other problem," he told WSYR-TV, "which is a significant under-enrollment on the part of the institution, so all in all it's a positive for the school with some noticeable challenges."

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