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College Demand Increases Despite Recession

While many businesses are losing customers thanks to the recession, Central Connecticut State University is seeing a spike in potential students.

“We’ve seen a 14 percent increase in undergraduate applications compared to this time last year,” said Lawrence Hall, director of recruitment and admissions at CCSU. “Some schools created waitlists for the first time this year due to the high demand.”

The surge in undergraduate applications continues a three-year upward trend, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. In the fall of 2008, there were 6,061 full-time undergraduate applications compared to 5,668 in 2007. In the fall of 2006, there were 5,313 undergraduate full-time applicants.

Hall attributed the rise in undergraduate applications partly to the slowing economy and CCSU’s low cost of attendance, as cashstrapped families are looking for a decent education without the high price tag.

CCSU’s undergraduate tuition for the 2008 to 2009 academic year is $7,042, making CCSU the least costly university within the Connecticut State University system. In addition, more than half of the full-time undergraduate students who applied for need-based aid had their need satisfied.

CCSU’s affordable cost is what drove prospective freshman Jordan Bouchard to apply for admission.

“My first choice was always Plymouth State University,” said the Meriden, Conn. resident, “but they only wanted to give me $7,000 in financial aid when it costs almost $20, 000 to go there, not including room and board.”

When Bouchard’s parents couldn’t foot the bill, he was forced to work for a year in order to save money.

CCSU is just one of several Connecticut universities seeing a jump in demand. According to the State of Connecticut Department of Higher Education, Fall 2008 enrollment at state sponsored colleges and universities rose 3.5 percent or 3,884 students, thanks to the recession.

“Clearly, we’re experiencing great demand for college,” wrote Michael P. Meotti, Commissioner of Higher Education in Connecticut, in a press release. “As in past tough economic times, people are turning to college to improve their prospects.”

Regardless of the cause of the increase in applications, education officials can all agree that the demand for higher education is becoming a financial burden for the state and universities.

“I know first-hand from visits to campuses across the state that colleges are doing their best to meet surging demand, particularly our community colleges where enrollment growth is outstripping all other sectors,” stated the Commissioner.

“As for everyone, the challenge before us is the uncertain economy. On one hand, economic downturns tend to benefit higher education as more people seek retraining. On the other hand, financial pressures strain our capacity to serve more students and keep costs down,” Meotti wrote.

However, school officials are quick to add that the recession isn’t the only reason for the growth in applications. Hall also credited the boost to CCSU’s budding reputation, aggressive marketing campaign and academic offerings.

In 2007, the Princeton Review named CCSU one of the “best northeastern colleges” and the university continues to receive positive limelight. He also pointed to the method in which the Office of Recruitment and Admissions uses social networking sites, such as Facebook, to market the university. Recruitment officials are also targeting high school underclassmen as actively as they pursue high school seniors.

“When high school freshmen are ready to graduate, they have a lot of information about Central,” said Hall.


-Terence Stewart, Special to The Recorder