A College Planning Secret: Using Yield to Increase Financial Aid

The college admissions and financial aid processes often leave working parents feeling helpless, stressed out, and more than a little disengaged at work. It seems that their children's college careers, future earnings potential, and overall happiness in life is left to the random whims of inscrutable admissions and financial aid officers, and despite hours of fumbling research (often on work time), parents are at a loss as to how to truly improve their children's admissions and financial aid outcomes.

Well, I have a surprise.

Employees have more power than they think

As your employees' children are competing with thousands of other students to be admitted to the colleges of their choice, unbeknownst to parents, colleges are also competing amongst themselves to attract their children.

The New York Times recently published a preliminary report on this admissions season's yield numbers at several dozen popular colleges. Though not a commonly known or discussed statistic among college applicants and their parents, the annual yield is an incredibly significant number to colleges and their admissions offices.

A college's yield refers to the percentage of accepted applicants who actually choose to enroll at that particular college. Other factors being equal, the higher the yield, the more appealing a college is perceived to be. As yield numbers rise, so does that college's ranking on the various lists of the "top colleges" studied by high school students and their parents. Theoretically, higher yield leads to a higher ranking, which leads to a larger and higher quality applicant pool, which leads to greater selectivity and higher average test scores, which leads to even higher rankings, etc., etc. The college's student body quality, prestige, and revenue stream are all intimately related to its yield.

Improving employees' negotiating power

Though colleges know they'll never achieve 100 percent yield, they do generally wish to see a greater percentage of their accepted applicants chose to enroll so that their yield number increases. Therefore, if a college accepts your employee's child, they have a vested interest in seeing him or her enroll.

That puts your employees in a strong position for negotiating scholarship offers. If parents let a college know that their child received a better offer elsewhere and that a small increase in funding would greatly increase the chances their child will enroll, they may see an enhancement to the school's initial offer, saving the family money and a whole lot of stress.

Of course, a parent's negotiation is more likely to be successful at colleges with lower yields or yields on a downward trend than at schools with already high or increasing yields think Dickinson (25 percent yield) or Holy Cross (31 percent yield), as opposed to Harvard (82 percent yield) or Stanford (77 percent yield). Even the most elite universities, however, are very aware of their numbers and rankings in comparison to their chief competitors. So if a parent can demonstrate to Yale, for example, that Princeton provided his child with a higher need-based financial aid offer, Yale may be willing to re-run its calculations to see if it can match Princeton's offer in order to increase the student's chances of enrolling and better its yield in comparison to one of its competitors.

Improving admissions outcomes...and job performances

Though sometimes invisible to students and parents, we College Coach educators, all former college admissions and financial aid officers, know the influence that families truly carry in the admissions and financial aid processes. Our job is to share that insider knowledge with your employees to empower them to use concepts such as yield to their advantage in developing a shrewd and comprehensive college application and financing strategy. And the successful outcomes that ensue from that strategy will engender an increasingly loyal and productive workforce for your company. And that's good news for students, parents, and their employers.

Written by: Shannon Vasconcelos

About the Author

Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.