Highlights from Higher Ed: Common App Trends, Community College Applications, HBCUs, and Mental Health on Campus

Jan 27, 2023

New Common App Data Highlights Positive Application Trends 

Recent analysis of newly released Common App data indicates that applications and admissions could be poised to bounce back in 2023, particularly among underrepresented minorities and first-generation students. Through January 1, students submitted nearly 1,080,000 distinct first-year applications overall, compared with about 903,000 during the 2019-2020 academic year, a 20% increase. (Researchers focused on 2019-20 data because it was the last year that applications were submitted before the pandemic caused numbers to plummet.) “Underrepresented minority applicants increased by 30% over 2019–20, while first-generation applicants increased by 35%, nearly three times the rate of continuing-generation applicants over the same period.” Low-income students, as measured by the number of applicants requesting fee waivers, increased more than four-fold, from 11% to 47%. 

Source: Inside Higher Ed 

Community College Application Trends Driven Largely by Age

Pandemic-era community college application trends were primarily influenced by students’ age, according to a new report from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College. The group with the largest decline was comprised of those who had recently graduated from high school, while the number of older adults also continued its applications decline. However, the number of high school students taking dual-enrollment courses is on the rise. “The data show community colleges enrolled 850,000 fewer students nationally in fall 2021 compared to fall 2019, including significant drops among students of color. Notably, Hispanic student enrollment, which was increasing prior to the pandemic, fell 12% overall.” During the same time period, 586,000 fewer recent high school graduates enrolled, compared with a loss of 277,000 older adult students. 

Source: Inside Higher Ed 

The Popularity of HBCUs Continues to Grow

The number of students applying to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) surged 138% in the past eight years. The trend may reflect the fact that more Black students are seeking academic environments in which they feel comfortable, safe, and accepted. It may also reflect a growing desire to respond to the societal inequities that have risen to the forefront of public consciousness in recent years. “Prior to the pandemic, a tectonic shift was taking place in higher education. The number of Black students enrolling in college was outshining the enrollment of middle-class, white students. During the pandemic, that trend was exacerbated by the racial justice movement that began in May 2020.” An influx of funding at many HBCUs may have also increased their ability to recruit new students. 

Source: eCampus News 

The Mental Health of College Students and Workers Got Worse Last Year

A recent survey of college and university student affairs professionals revealed that most (72%) believe the mental health of students and staffers suffered during the past year. A large minority (42%) said the increasing severity of mental health problems is the greatest challenge they face while attempting to address the crisis. On the bright side, 93% of respondents said they believe students are more comfortable talking about mental health than they were five years ago. And 71% believe there are now more mental health resources available than last year. “Burnout among college employees is a top concern, with 67% of those surveyed reporting that both staff workload and burnout got worse in the past year.” Overall, “84% still said their campus should increase its financial investment in mental health services this upcoming year.” 

Source: Higher Ed Dive 


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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.