Application fee breakdown: How the university measures up
BY Managing News Editor
AND , Senior Reporter
What do Harvard University, Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Delaware all have in common?
They all charge prospective students $75 to apply to their undergraduate programs.
The average application fee for undergraduate colleges is about $43, according to a survey from U.S. News and World Report. Some of the higher fees can reach over $100, while those on the lower end hover around $30.
At the end of the application season in 2017, LendEdu, a student lending-tool marketplace, reviewed 500 colleges and developed projections regarding those that had made the most revenue off denied college applications. Delaware, which ranked 84th for rejected application revenue and 51st for total application revenue, was one of 32 traditional colleges that charged $75 to apply to their institution, including both private Ivy League schools and public state institutions.
Of the colleges charging this amount, the university’s acceptance rate — 60 percent in 2017, according to U.S. News and World Report — is on the higher end. The average acceptance rate of the 32 schools, including the university, is 35.2 percent, and the median is 27 percent.
While the university may be less selective than others charging the same application fee, the amount of money its alumni earn is much closer to the average of the group.
U.S. News and World Report places the average starting salary for undergraduate alumni at $54,800. The average for the 32 schools that charge $75 per application, however, is $59,419.
Several universities indicate on their websites that this application fee remains non-refundable, implying that these institutions are retaining this money for their own purposes. At the university, there were 24,881 applicants in 2017, meaning that the university could have made up to $623,400 from declined applications alone, and up to $1,866,075 from all applications. Some students, however, receive exemptions from the application fee, something these figures do not account for.
The average student supposedly applies to six to eight colleges: broken down, that’s two “safeties,” two to three “targets” and two to three “reaches.” Unless one applies as an early-decision or early-action student, or receives application fee exemptions, they will surely spend a considerable amount of money using this method — a minimum of $450 when applying to two colleges in each category.
So, where is this money going?
The general consensus is that these fees cover the cost of the entire admissions process, including individual student assessments. However, this still doesn’t really explain why a school like the University of Delaware has the same application fee as a school like Harvard.
Harvard ranked 15th on the list. They had 37,307 applicants in 2017 but accepted a mere 2,080, making their potential revenue from declined applications up to $2,642,025 — and up to potentially $2,798,025 overall.
Having a fee to apply to a university isn’t inherently exploitative — it does imply that students will weigh the cost and benefits of spending $75 just to apply to one school. They must decide if that school is worth that $75. Fees corral students into making real choices instead of applying to as many schools as they possibly can just to “get in somewhere.”