Special Report

Colleges Where Applications Are on the Rise

Detailed Findings

While there are several dozen private institutions on this list, the majority of schools reporting the largest increases in applications are public. This pattern fits the overall distribution of college matriculation. Nationwide, three quarters of Americans enrolled in college or graduate school attend a public institution. This is partially because public schools typically offer steep reductions in tuition for in-state students.

Indeed, among the public schools on this list, average annual costs range from about $4,000 at California State University-Los Angeles, to $23,000 at Temple University in Pennsylvania. Among private institutions, costs are generally far higher, ranging from $15,000 at Saint Xavier University in Illinois, to $45,600 at The New School in New York.

While applying to a college is by no means the same as enrolling there, many of the schools on this list have also grown considerably in the last five years. Of the 100 schools with the largest increases, 75 have a larger student body today than they did five years ago. In 17 schools, overall enrollment has grown by more than 20% since the 2011-2012 school year.

In other cases, a growing pile of applications has allowed schools to become more selective in the admissions process. In 65 of the 100 schools on this list, acceptance rates are lower now than they were five years ago.


Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 100 colleges and universities with the largest five-year percentage increase in applicants from the 2011-2012 school year to the 2016-2017 year. Only schools with at least 4,000 applicants in 2011 were considered. Average annual costs also came from NCES and factor in financial aid recipients. Acceptance rates were calculated using NCES data. Five year changes in student body size were calculated using the 12-month unduplicated headcount from NCES. Total undergraduate enrollment came from College Navigator, an NCES program and is for the most recent available year.