Saturday, October 31, 2009

Breaking Records

Congratulations, you are helping to break a record just by attending classes. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage 18- to 24-year-olds attending two- or four-year colleges has reached an all-time high, 39.6 percent of that population. Despite the economic downturn and the increase in tuition at four-year universities, the enrollment at four-year institutions has remained steady between 2007 and 2008, at around 27.8 percent of people 18 to 24 years old.

Interestingly, according to a study released this month by Caroline M. Hoxby, this increase in college attendance has occurred as the top 10 percent of colleges have become substantially more competitive in the last 50 years and the bottom 50 percent of colleges have become less selective over that time. According to the study, this is "the consequent re-sorting of students among colleges that has, at once, caused selectivity to rise in a small number of colleges while simultaneously causing it to fall in other colleges."

Princeton appears to reflect the former trend. In 1958, a pamphlet aimed at alumni with college-age sons were reassured that "[t]he Princeton son is judged from an academic standpoint solely on this one question: can he be expected to graduate? If so, he's admitted." By this decade, the acceptance rate has vacillated between 12.2 percent and 9.25 percent of all applicants.