News & Opinion | April 23, 2020 10:15 am

Colleges Are So Desperate for Fall Enrollment, They’re Offering Unprecedented Perks

Schools are offering early registration, free parking and even cash

college coronavirus
Boston University has plans in place in the event that students can't return to campus in the fall.
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic leaves many students’ plans for fall up in the air (and the recession adds a new layer of economic uncertainty on top of that), colleges across the country are getting desperate to boost their fall semester enrollment numbers. And as a new Washington Post piece points out, recruiters are employing new tactics to try to lure students to their campuses.

“The gloves have come off,” Angel Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Connecticut, told the publication. “You’re talking about a scenario where colleges need to enroll students at any cost.”

That includes offering perks like early registration, top choice on dorm rooms, free parking and even scholarship money. Accepted students who pay a deposit to Colorado Christian University by Dec. 1 are guaranteed an additional $1,000-a-year scholarship, while Albion College in Michigan is entering students in a sweepstakes where they can win prizes like free room and board for a semester or $250 for textbooks once they put down their deposits. And as the Post points out, “some of the inducements are a consequence of a Justice Department action that forced college admissions officers to drop key parts of their professional code of ethics, which prohibited many of these kinds of appeals and banned colleges from pursuing each other’s students.”

“Everybody was sort of, like, ‘Oh my god, what just happened? Fasten your seat belt because it’s going to be an all-out crazy time with people dangling incentives,’” Joan Koven, an educational consultant in Philadelphia, said. “And then we have this [pandemic crisis] bursting open.”

Of course, all this recruiting is hinged upon the idea that schools will be open for in-person classes this fall — something that isn’t necessarily a given yet, thanks to COVID-19.

“That’s very much up in the air,” Robert Ruiz, a former admissions director, told the Post. “And if they’re not going to be on the campus this fall, all the things we thought were important to them won’t be important.”

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