College Passes Enrollment Goal for Class of 2022

The Oberlin College Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid are cautiously celebrating a successful recruiting season for the class of 2022. Based on early admissions numbers, the office projects that it has surpassed its enrollment goals for the 2018–19 school year.

As of May 4, 868 students committed to attend Oberlin College and Conservatory this fall. Admissions administrators set an initial goal to enroll 750 students between the College and the Conservatory for the class of 2022 — 620 for the College and 130 for the Conservatory and double-degree — with an anticipated range of 735–775. At this time last year, 753 students had committed.

Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Manuel Carballo acknowledges that the number will likely fluctuate slightly before fall. Administrators attribute this potential change to summer melt — a trend that is seen across higher education in which waitlist activity at other schools, gap year requests, and other factors lead to about a 10 percent decrease in student commitment for the fall.

“We do expect that our enrollment number will change as the summer progresses but even with melt, we anticipate [having] above 800 new students,” Carballo wrote in an email to the Review.

Carballo also spoke to the initiatives in place to mediate the effects of summer melt.

“We are certainly working on what we call ‘melt initiatives,’ and so [we’re] working with folks across campus to do things to make sure that the kids that are here are still excited by us — that we’re not [losing] them later on,” he said.

As it currently stands, the College will welcome a class with a similar academic profile as in years past: 28 percent students of color, compared to 26 percent in the class of 2021; eight percent first-generation college students, compared to six percent in the class of 2021; 11 percent international students, which is the same as the class of 2021; and six percent native Ohioans, compared to five percent in the class of 2021.

“I personally was not surprised about the increase, just due to the general upward trend in higher education where people of color have had an increasing amount of opportunities to be able to pursue their education,” College sophomore Brian Tom said regarding the admissions numbers. “And while I would have loved to see that number be higher, for the school’s diversity rate to better represent that of the nation, it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

This year, the All Roads Lead to Oberlin program included a parent reception, sessions for prospective students led by Peer Advising Leaders, a lab tour, and an academic fair featuring every department. Most notably, programming took place over two days instead of one, as it has in years past.

“I think [expanding the program] allowed for more families to make the trip out because if you’re coming from, let’s say, California, two days is a lot more worthwhile of your time than for a shorter time span,” said Senior Assistant Director of Admissions Jessica Cummings, OC ’10. “So we did see that the number of visitors coming was pretty much a record.”

593 admitted students attended one of the three All Roads programs, and 58 percent accepted the College’s offer of admission. In 2017, 537 admitted students attended an All Roads program, and 51 percent committed to the College.

“By all measures it was a great success, and that is shown by an increased yield on the program,” Cummings said. “I think, anecdotally, we noticed that a lot of students were committing sooner, and more confidently, to Oberlin because their visit was just that much more comprehensive and informative, and they made stronger connections to the Oberlin community because they were here for a longer period of time.”

In a joint statement emailed to the Review, Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration Alan Norton and Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo spoke to how the enrollment numbers will impact the College’s financial situation.

“The College is tuition-dependent, so there is a direct link between the amount students pay, the number of students, and the College’s financial position,” they wrote. “The number of new students expected next fall is higher than anticipated, but the number of returning students will likely be down a little.”

Under-enrollment last year contributed to a $5 million deficit. Despite increased enrollment, the College still faces similar financial challenges.

“The anticipated enrollment and revenue will still leave the College with an operating deficit,” Norton and Raimondo wrote. “For that reason changes such as closing Dascomb Dining Hall, moving Safety and Security, Student Health, and Counseling, into Dascomb Dining Hall, and taking some Village Houses off-line are underway. This will likely be a period of continued change at the College.”

Retention also plays a significant role in tuition revenue, and losing students has monetarily distressed the College; it is more cost-effective to retain a student than to recruit a new student.

The College will have a clearer picture of the financial situation when final enrollment figures come in late August.