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Interest rises in early decision

Even in hard economic times, the steep higher education price tag has not deterred the early decision applicant pool from applying to colleges, administrators say.

If anything, early admissions data indicate more students are seeking admission into Boston University. There has been a 13 percent increase in early decision applications from last year, from 836 to 946 this fall, Office of Admissions Executive Director Kelly Walter said.

‘ ‘We’re experiencing very difficult economic times here and overseas,’ she said. ‘But this fact reminds us that of all the values that families hold, education remains something that continues to be highly valued. I think families are going to have to make tough decisions come the spring.’

The college search process requires so much effort that students and their families may have been unwilling to adjust at the last minute, given the financial crisis’s emergence in late August, Walter said.

Bearing these financial hardships in mind, BU will be especially helpful this year in maintaining financial security for its future students, she said.

‘It’s absolutely critical every year, but especially in a year like this, that we are able to provide not only financial assistance to as many students as possible, but that those financial aid resources are allocated as wisely as possible to eligible students,’ she said.

Early decision applications accounted for only about 2 percent of last year’s record-setting 38,004 total applicant pool. Because of the small percentage, the increase in early decision applicants does not necessarily predict an increase in the entire pool. However, a 25 percent increase in early decision applications at Duke University, as well as several other similar reports, hints at a trend.

BU visiting economics professor Perry Mehrling said the increases at Duke and BU are due to the significant international populations at both universities. ‘

‘There was a period, maybe, when [international] students were making decisions when the dollar was very low,’ Mehrling said. ‘It might have looked to foreigners as if U.S. education was, in fact, on sale when they were making decisions on where to apply.’

The financial crisis could affect student application decisions, however, through the increased difficulty in acquiring student loans, he said.

Firms had been offering credit for student loans by packaging several loans and selling them as a single bond. If a student cannot pay this bond, then its value becomes questionable, which means it cannot be traded, resulting in a market freeze, Mehrling said. As such, firms no longer give out loans as freely as before.

‘Any markets that depend on the packaging are completely frozen,’ Mehrling said. ‘All of these forms of credit are at the moment tough to get, and I would imagine that’s affecting students.’

Despite the potential economic challenges, the increase in early decision applications leaves BU confident that students still see the university as a desired destination, BU spokesman Colin Riley said.

‘It shows that a lot of students are looking strongly and have decided that BU is a place that if they’re accepted that they’d like to enroll,’ he said. ‘That is consistent with what our experience has been with the school’s reputation as caliber of faculty and student body continue to strengthen.’

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  1. As reported previously here and in BU Today, BU students are relatively protected from the vagaries and crises in the student loan market because all Federal loans, e.g., Stafford Loans, originate with the federal government. No third parties are involved. BU students use third-party vendors only for credit-based loans that may be used to supplement grants, federal loans, and family contributions. Thus, although Professor Mehrling rightly notes that the student loan market remains unsettled, BU students can rest assured that at least the federal loan options, including the PLUS loan, are not subject to these market forces.