U-WIRE: Virginia drops early admissions

By Inna Lifshin

PHILADELPHIA – It might have seemed like early admissions was toast after the University of Virginia, a public school, followed Harvard and Princeton in abolishing the practice this fall.

But no other school has jumped on the bandwagon in the past month, and some are now saying the trend has petered out.

Harvard University announced in September that it would be eliminating early admissions in 2008, citing a desire to remove barriers for low-income students.

Princeton and the University of Virginia quickly followed suit, and a number of other schools stated that they were considering making similar moves as well.

University of Pennsylvania officials have said repeatedly that the University’s binding early decision program will not change.

David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said the fact that no school has dropped early admissions in the past month is a “good indicator that the trend won’t necessarily go that far.”

One factor in other schools’ hesitation may be the lack of evidence that the move will really abolish barriers for low-income students, he said.

“There’s just not the feeling that this is really going to solve the access puzzle,” he added.

Nevertheless, Hawkins said, it is possible that a few more schools will make announcements in the near future – but not a “landslide” of them.

Tony Pals, spokesman for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said higher-education experts had initially predicted that few schools would follow Harvard’s lead.

“I don’t think it surprises anyone” that no schools have dropped early admissions since the University of Virginia did in late September, he said.

But even if Harvard’s move has not sparked a domino effect, experts agree that it made a difference by thrusting the issue of admissions fairness into the limelight.

It has “breathed life into an issue that was fairly dormant,” Hawkins said.