COMMENTARY: Association of College Admissions Officers and Counselors Amend Code of Ethics; What it Means for Students

 

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A few weeks ago, there was a seismic shift in college admissions. While unclear still on what the fallout will be, it is clear that this change will have an impact going forward.

At their recent annual conference, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), an association of college admissions officers and counselors, voted to amend their code of ethics and practices to comply with a Department of Justice investigation. Simply put, the changes now will allow colleges to:

  • Offer additional financial aid or other benefits to students who apply Early Decision (the “binding” application)
  • Try to further recruit (with additional aid or other benefits) students who have made their enrollment decision to attend a different school.
  • Try to recruit students who already attend college elsewhere to transfer, particularly those who the recruiting college admitted in prior years.

In short, colleges recruiting students may get a lot more interesting with a lot more negotiation involved.

While this impacts admissions decisions, these decisions clearly will have an impact on the financial cost of sending your student to college. The Department of Justice still has to review the changes and may require further changes. But there are a few conclusions that seem obvious, in my opinion.

A likely change is an increase in deposits. With essentially wide open recruIting allowed, whether or not a student has committed already to a school, you’ll likely see deposit amounts increase to try to prevent other schools luring away already committed students.

The bigger impact will be on financial aid and scholarships offered to the most desireable students. I don’t mean those with perfect test scores or impeccable resumes. As I have written previously, colleges rank applicants relative to each other on a number of factors. It’s really no different than athletic recruiting where the star quarterback may get multiple scholarship offers while the 3rd stringer gets nary a sniff.

This is going to put much more onus on the families to do a thorough college search and truly figure out where their student would be highly ranked, not just admitted. After all, your student may be the star quarterback at one college but viewed as the 3rd stringer at another.

Families will further have to research how their student rank relative to others within their desired major. Schools publish their statistics for last year’s admitted students, but those can vary greatly for a particular major. And don’t forget about the other factors in play, such as gender, and in- versus out-of-state residency.

Again, no word on if and when any changes in the admissions process will take place. For the families where cost of college matters, those who really take the time to do a thorough search, understanding where their student may rank will benefit from these rules. Families who just keep the mindset of asking where their student (regardless of how the student compares to other applicants) will get in likely won’t get many calls with revised offers.

Jack Wang is CEO/Financial Wealth Strategist of Longhorn Financial LLC. His practice focuses primarily on helping regular families with college financial aid planning as well as retirement income planning, with a particular focus on helping business owners/self-employed. The practice serves clients throughout the country. He, along with his wife and children, live in Westford. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/longhornfin or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/thejackwang/. You can also visit his website at www.longhornfin.com