Just over a week ago, the delegates at the annual National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) conference overwhelmingly approved changes to the organization’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP) and bylaws. These changes removed sections of the CEPP that prohibited colleges and universities from recruiting incoming undergraduates who had already committed to another institution, among other things.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) began investigating NACAC nearly two years ago. The investigation focused on possible violations of antitrust laws that limited student choices in the college selection process.
NACAC was in the position of needing to make the necessary amendments to its CEPP or face what may have been an even lengthier investigation as well as potentially costly litigation.
The organization struck the following provisions from the CEPP:
"Colleges must not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an early decision application plan. Examples of incentives include the promise of special housing, enhanced financial aid packages, and special scholarships for early decision admits. Colleges may, however, disclose how admission rates for early decision differ from those for other admission plans."
"College choices should be informed, well-considered, and free from coercion. Students require a reasonable amount of time to identify their college choices; complete applications for admission, financial aid, and scholarships; and decide which offer of admission to accept. Once students have committed themselves to a college, other colleges must respect that choice and cease recruiting them."
"Colleges will not knowingly recruit or offer enrollment incentives to students who are already enrolled, registered, have declared their intent, or submitted contractual deposits to other institutions. May 1 is the point at which commitments to enroll become final, and colleges must respect that. The recognized exceptions are when students are admitted from a wait list, students initiate inquiries themselves, or cooperation is sought by institutions that provide transfer programs."
"Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from a previous year’s applicant or prospect pool unless the students have themselves initiated a transfer inquiry or the college has verified prior to contacting the students that they are either enrolled at a college that allows transfer recruitment from other colleges or are not currently enrolled in a college."
NACAC also approved a moratorium on enforcement of the CEPP for up to a year or until the legal review with DOJ is resolved, and made other minor bylaw adjustments.
Members of the association seem to have mixed reactions to these steps. Some indicated that even though the provisions are gone they will still follow them in practice and hope to continue to protect students from unscrupulous colleges. Some experts have expressed concern that some colleges may attempt to “poach” students.
It will be interesting to see if and how the admissions practices of colleges change over the next few years. How might such changes affect the students we serve? At the very least, we need to think about these questions and how to modify our advising and summer melt work:
Will the early decision process potentially become more attractive to students if colleges can add housing or financial aid incentives to those admitted? Alternatively, will early decision become less attractive now that colleges may approach students at any point prior to enrollment?
Which colleges might continue strong recruitment efforts after a student has committed themselves to another college? May 1 has long been recognized as the “decision day” for four-year colleges around the country. Will colleges move up this date in hopes of students making and keeping their commitments? Will colleges extend this date so student recruitment can continue? Will colleges greatly increase the amount of the financial deposits required so as to dissuade students from switching colleges late in the process?
What will the effects be on the waitlist concept? Will colleges be working on waitlists up until the first day of fall semester?
At what point now will we be able to consider seniors “done” with the college application process?
What adjustments will be made to summer melt strategies/activities?
What type of transfer-recruiting correspondence might students receive during that critical first year of college?
What will your advising strategy be if a late but better offer comes to one of your students over the summer?
We do not necessarily have answers to all of these questions today. NCAN will need to watch how things unfold this year and begin to help our members adjust their practices, if necessary.
We will continue to keep you updated with any new information from our colleagues at NACAC.