IOWA CITY — Even with the nationally-recognized May 1 college decision day past, all three of Iowa’s public universities are continuing to accept applications.
That is a change for the University of Iowa, which last year imposed an earliest-ever March 1 application deadline and waitlist. That came as applications poured in and projections showed the fall 2017 new freshmen total could top 6,000 for the first time. At the time, UI President Bruce Harreld stressed the need to keep the first-year class in a “sweet spot” of about 5,400.
Last year’s early deadline appeared successful in accomplishing that, with a total new freshmen count at 5,027, down from 5,643 in fall 2016.
Iowa State University also saw a new freshman dip last year from 6,325 to 5,944. Then-ISU President Steven Leath, like Harreld, had urged soaring enrollment be curtailed in light of a lack of state support to meet the projected growth.
The University of Northern Iowa, however, has been pursuing the opposite goal in response to the same decline in the ratio of state support. The Cedar Falls campus wants more students, especially those from outside Iowa who pay higher tuition rates.
But UNI, like its counterparts, saw fewer new freshmen last fall — 1,834 compared with 2,000 the previous year.
None of the three public universities would disclose how many prospective students have applied for the coming fall semester, been admitted or accepted admission and submitted deposits so far.
“College admissions is a competitive environment, and we typically don’t release preliminary application numbers,” ISU spokeswoman Annette Hacker said.
Both ISU and UNI long have accepted applications on a rolling basis, meaning they don’t impose a deadline but continue taking applications and deposits after May 1. Future students, in fact, can accept an offer of admission through the start of a semester.
All three schools have only restricted powers to control enrollment — a “regents admission index” requires in-state applicants who meet specific qualifications to get automatic admission.
Thus the UI, in an attempt to exert what control it does have, imposed the early deadline last year. The university has returned to a looser acceptance schedule.
“We will continue to take applications beyond May 1 on a space available basis following individual review of applicants,” said UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck.
UI’s goal is to remain on par with last year’s new freshmen enrollment, according to Beck.
Although none of the three schools revealed application figures, she said the UI is up slightly in resident freshmen, down in non-resident freshmen and down in international students.
ISU Admissions Director Katharine Johnson Suski said by email her campus, too, wants to remain flat in new freshmen — although numbers are up a bit for the fall. ISU — like the UI — is seeing increases in resident students, decreases in non-residents and drops in international student applications.
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ISU President Wendy Wintersteen earlier this week expressed concern about international enrollment declines.
“Is it part of the climate that’s out there?” she asked during an interview. “For us, having a strong international student presence at Iowa State is a value for all of our students.”