US Colleges Making the Most Money From Application Fees

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Applications from high school students wanting to begin their college educations next fall have already begun landing on admissions counselors’ desks and will continue in a rising tide through the end of January, with decisions mailed out around April 1. More than a third of would-be college freshman apply to seven or more colleges, and more than 80% apply to at least three.

Each of those applications includes a fee that can run from $10 to as much as $150, with an average of around $50. The fees serve two purposes, according to Mike Brown of LendEDU, a consumer-oriented website with information about financial products, including student loans.

First, application fees are revenue for the colleges, not profit. Every application is reviewed by at least one, and often more, professional admission counselor and the cost of those professional reviews is passed on to applicants and, more likely, their parents. According to the most recent report from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, the mean number of applications read by a college admissions officer is 854, with a mean at public colleges of 1,472 and 494 at private colleges.

In addition to offsetting costs, application fees function to self-limit college-bound students from applying to hundreds of colleges. This may tilt the playing field toward students who can afford to pay more application fees, but many colleges will waive application fees for less financially able applicants.

LendEDU’s Brown reviewed application data from the National Center for Educational Statistics to come up with three different lists of 500 colleges: those that make the most money off total applications; those that make the most money of declined applications; and those with the highest yield (ratio of enrolled to admitted students).

Here are the 10 U.S. colleges making the most revenue from applications. LendEDU has included the total number of applicants, the fee (for students enrolled in the fall of 2016) and the total amount of revenue the fee generates.

  1. University of California—Los Angeles
    Total applicants: 97,112
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $6.8 million
  2. University of California—San Diego
    Total applicants: 84,208
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $5.9 million
  3. University of California—Berkeley
    Total applicants: 82,561
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $5.8 million
  4. University of California—Irvine
    Total applicants: 77,816
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $5.4 million
  5. University of California—Santa Barbara
    Total applicants: 77,112
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $5.4 million
  6. University of California—Davis
    Total applicants: 68,553
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $4.8 million
  7. Boston University
    Total applicants: 57,441
    Fee: $80
    Total fee revenue: $4.6 million
  8. University of Southern California
    Total applicants: 54,280
    Fee: $80
    Total fee revenue: $4.3 million
  9. New York University
    Total applicants: 60,724
    Fee: $70
    Total fee revenue: $4.3 million
  10. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
    Total applicants: 55,504
    Fee: $75
    Total fee revenue: $4.2 million

Here are the 10 colleges making the most revenue from students who were denied admissions, along with the revenue amount.

  1. University of California—Los Angeles: $5.6 million
  2. University of California—Berkeley: $4.8 million
  3. University of San Diego: $3.8 million
  4. Stanford University: $3.8 million
  5. University of Southern California: $3.6 million
  6. University of California—Santa Barbara: $3.5 million
  7. Boston University: $3.2 million
  8. University of California—Irvine: $3.2 million
  9. Cornell University: $3.1 million
  10. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor: $3.0 million

Here’s the list of the 10 colleges with the highest yield of enrolled students from among those admitted. LendEDU includes the total number of applicants, the total admitted, the total enrolled and the yield rate as a percentage.

  1. Robert Morris University Illinois
    Total applicants: 2,732
    Total admitted: 632
    Total enrolled: 551
    Yield rate: 87%
  2. Stanford University
    Total applicants: 43,997
    Total admitted: 2,118
    Total enrolled: 1,739
    Yield rate: 82%
  3. Brigham Young University—Provo
    Total applicants: 12,739
    Total admitted: 6,520
    Total enrolled: 5,246
    Yield rate: 80%
  4. Harvard University
    Total applicants: 39,041
    Total admitted: 2,110
    Total enrolled: 1,663
    Yield rate: 79%
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Total applicants: 19,020
    Total admitted: 1,511
    Total enrolled: 1,110
    Yield rate: 73%
  6. The Julliard School
    Total applicants: 2,545
    Total admitted: 157
    Total enrolled: 113
    Yield rate: 72%
  7. Southeastern Louisiana University
    Total applicants: 4,293
    Total admitted: 3,748
    Total enrolled: 2,616
    Yield rate: 70%
  8. University of Wisconsin Colleges
    Total applicants: 6,029
    Total admitted: 4,548
    Total enrolled: 3,195
    Yield rate: 70%
  9. Yale University
    Total applicants: 31,445
    Total admitted: 1,988
    Total enrolled: 1,367
    Yield rate: 69%
  10. Fashion Institute of Technology
    Total applicants: 4,632
    Total admitted: 1,872
    Total enrolled: 1,272
    Yield rate: 68%

For the complete lists of all 500 colleges in each of the three categories, visit the LendEDU website.