May 22, 2012

Yield for incoming students

Increasing class sizes should prompt the U of C to mend the disconnect between Housing and Admissions.

As reported in today’s Maroon, the admissions yield for the newest class in the College increased this year from 40 percent to an impressive 47 percent. The projected size of the incoming class is 1,525, which marks a record one-time increase in yield rate from last year. Though this increased yield is commendable, the University now faces a difficult housing situation. Last year, roughly 60 first-years were placed in New Graduate Residence Hall (NGRH) after the Office of Undergraduate Housing (OUH) anticipated fewer than the 1,411 students in the Class of 2015. With a projected incoming class that exceeds this figure by over 100 students and no new housing currently under construction, the University has demonstrated once again a problematic lack of communication between its Housing and Admissions offices. It must repair this disconnect or else risk negatively impacting the housing experience for all students.

The seven percentage-point increase in yield rate this year indicates that greater numbers of students now view the U of C as a place they are seriously interested in attending. The past few years have seen the yield rate stagnate at around 40 percent even as application numbers continued to rise. Given this relative stability, it is understandable that Admissions underestimated this year’s yield.

Nonetheless, statements made by the OUH in previous years suggest a continued tension between Housing and Admissions that has serious consequences for current and incoming students. Current housing facilities—not including NGRH and International House—can hold 2,786 students. The incoming class would constitute approximately 55 percent of this capacity. Yet, a repeatedly stated objective of Housing administrators is upperclassmen retention in housing, a goal that appears at odds with Admissions’s efforts to increase yield in the short term. Last year, Director of University Housing Katie Callow-Wright stated that the OUH was not expecting the incoming class of 2016 to be as big as the last one. She also denied any plans to construct new residence halls in the near future. Though there are now plans to replace Pierce Tower with a new residence hall, this would not materialize until some five years down the line. Until that time, Admissions should more cautiously calculate yield rates so that Housing is not left in dire need of accommodations it does not have.

While the University has done a good job promoting house culture in the new Midway and Phoenix houses, the absence of NGRH and I-House from the current U of C “Office of Undergraduate Housing Student Room Selection Guide” is a good indicator that the University views these two options purely as last resorts. Such slapdash solutions could negatively impact new students’ all-important housing experiences and could conceivably limit upperclassmen’s ability to stay in housing should they so choose. If Admissions would like to see the yield rate continue to rise, and Housing would like to retain more upperclassmen, the University must admit fewer students until housing options are expanded. Until that day comes, there is some leeway to be had in the form of the waitlist. In the event that smaller pools of accepted students in the future yield classes that are too small, accepting more students off of the waitlist is a safer bet than potentially over-enrolling yet again.

Uniting the goals of the OUH and Admissions Office is a sure way to prevent the need for desperate measures. A May 2008 Maroon article about increasing yield rates noted that the Class of 2012—which contained roughly 1,350 students at the time—was “larger than the University had planned to accommodate.” As these students prepare to collect their diplomas, the problem that preceded them is still no closer to being solved.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.