Updated April 27 at 9:27am

Some colleges seeing record number of applications, partly due to economy

Applications to some local colleges and universities have been flowing in at record levels this application season, and at least one admission officer says it is partially the result of a feeble economy. More

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EDUCATION

Some colleges seeing record number of applications, partly due to economy

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Applications to some local colleges and universities have been flowing in at record levels this application season, and at least one admission officer says it is partially the result of a feeble economy.

Brown University last month said it had fielded 31,000 applications for the 2011-2012 school year, beating last year’s record-setting 30,000. And Providence College has reported receiving an all-time-high 9,819 applications, 17 percent above last year’s number.

Other schools, too, have said they’re drawing more interest.

The University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, Bryant University and Rhode Island School of Design estimate single-digit increases in applications.

The number of college applications sent out by high school seniors has been on the rise for several years – even though the number of high school seniors nationwide has been shrinking – because online technology has made it easier for applicants to submit their information to multiple schools.

But Christopher Lydon, PC’s dean of admission, said another factor has been involved this year: Parents fearing their child won’t get into a school with a generous financial package or one that offers affordable tuition, particularly at a time when the sticker price for four years of schooling tops $200,000 at a growing number of schools.

“Economic uncertainties have families wary of applying to too few schools and not ending up with the kind of economic options they want,” Lydon told Providence Business News last week.

As a result, many students and their families are willing to pay the additional fees to get applications to more admission offices.

“If you have a better range of economic offers when you get to April 1, that’s probably money pretty well-invested,” Lydon said.

Admission experts say the amount of applications received by colleges and universities has grown more crucial in recent years as the number of high school graduates nationwide has gotten smaller.

The larger pool of prospective students, the easier it is to field enough to fill a freshmen class without watering down the acceptance standards. Then there’s the prestige of publicizing a low acceptance rate.

Those familiar with recruiting techniques say some schools have turned to special marketing efforts to drive up application numbers, including so-called “snap apps,” invitations for some students to submit documents without paying a fee or writing an essay. In some cases, much of the information is already filled in for the students.

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