With online applications, colleges struggle to predict enrollment

At UC Davis and other schools, administrators are overwhelmed with the number of incoming freshmen, as online applications mean many more applications and last-minute decision-making.

University enrollment has always been difficult to predict. Students are fickle and apply to sometimes a dozen universities at once. Now with online registration making applying that much easier, some California universities have admitted more freshman than they had planned for, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Universities such as the University of California at Davis are rushing around trying to find space to accomodate the new arrivals. Dorm rooms made for two will house three students, more faculty will have to be hired and more lab space found. UC Davis will shave to spend $1 million to add just over 100 extra classes.

"It was a surprise, but overall we've tried to make sure we are going to deliver the same program we promised," said John Meyer, vice chancellor for resource management and planning at UC Davis. "It did take the efforts of many, many people to ensure the students have a good experience."

The problem is that officials cannot rely on the old ways of counting enrollment trends due to online application services. Applying to college has become increasingly competitive and students apply to many colleges to make sure that they get in. Nearly 1 in 10 students send applications to between eight and 11 schools. Students wait until the last minute to choose where they will go.

"We start each year trying to predict the decision making of 9,000 18-year-olds and their parents," said Mark Rubinstein, vice president for student and academic affairs at the University of New Hampshire, which got almost 400 more students than it planned for. "And if you've ever tried to predict the behavior of even one teenager, you know how difficult it can be."

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