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Applications rise at most local universities, except Chicago and DePaul

University of Illinois at Chicago

Applications to Chicago’s major universities increased for the upcoming academic year, with Northwestern University setting a record. But there were two exceptions: the University of Chicago and DePaul University.

Chicago reported a 9.4 percent decline in freshman applications for 2014-15 to 27,499 from a record 30,369 this academic year. The drop was partially attributed to the university’s trouble with the Common Application that prevented some students from submitting applications.

DePaul’s drop of 2.5 percent also came off a record year. The university recorded 19,450 applications for 2014-15 compared with 19,957 for 2013-14.

Meanwhile, applications to the Illinois Institute of Technology and Loyola University Chicago each jumped by double digits.

“We are 33 percent up in first-year applications,” said Alan Cramb, IIT’s provost. “We’re up 50 percent from two years ago.”

A combination of factors, including an aggressive marketing program, have raised the South Side school’s profile and attracted interest from students in California, Texas, Florida and New York.

“We’ve done a lot of work on our website, we’ve done a lot more communication with students and developed our social media (strategy), and we’ve done a lot with data analysis in not only who to target, but what the message is,” Mr. Cramb said. “We’ve done a better job in letting them know earlier what their financial aid package is.”

Loyola saw applications jump 22 percent over last year as the Jesuit school continues to spend money on improving campus life. The school invested $500 million in recent years on new or renovated facilities.

“Students are coming here and having a great experience,” said Paul Roberts, Loyola’s associate provost. “There’s been a tremendous focus on the student experience and making sure they complete their degree in four years.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago reported an 8 percent increase to 15,432 as of last week, and Northwestern’s applications rose 1.3 percent to a record 33,200.

Outside Chicago, Harvard University reported a 2.1 percent decline in applications and Dartmouth College, suffering from student strife, fell 14 percent. Yale University saw applications rise 3 percent for the upcoming academic year.

Application growth may be tempered in future years as demographers project a drop in the number of high school graduates due to declining birth rates and immigration. That pool peaked in 2011. Analysts expect it to take more than a decade for the high school graduate population to recover, and even by 2025, the total pool is estimated to be only 3 percent larger than it was in 2011.

Mr. Roberts said Loyola expects future application numbers to be flat or declining through 2018.

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