May 25, 2016

Colleges NOT using the Coalition application for 2016-17

JMU will not be using the Coalition application in 2016-17
They joined the group. They signed the contract and signaled their support for the mission of the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success (CAAS). Maybe they even liked the idea of a portfolio development tool or snappy new application software.

But for whatever reason, a significant percentage of the Coalition members are choosing to stand back and not use the Coalition Application for 2016-2017. Out of 93 current members of the Coalition, as many as one-third may not be accepting the application for next year.

When asked why join and then not participate in the most important element of the Coalition—its application tool, colleges provide remarkably similar responses.

“We’re not ready on our end for the new technology,” or “We’re overhauling our internal systems and couldn’t possibly add another complication.” It’s almost as if these representatives of Coalition member institutions are reading from a script or a series of “talking points” prepared to handle questions related to their participation in the new application for the coming year.

And in these explanations, there’s never any criticism of the Coalition, nor any indication that their first loyalty could stand with the Coalition’s most obvious competition for application numbers—the Common Application. And while the Coalition has consistently declined to suggest a desire for exclusivity or competition, it goes without saying that CollegeNET hasn’t invested large sums of money developing tools no one will use.

But then again, Coalition administrators appear to support the various reasons for deferring participation for a year.

"The decision of whether or not to go live this year with a coalition application is largely driven by the technology resources at individual member schools and being able to support a new application this coming cycle," explained James Nondorf, chairman of the Coalition and the University of Chicago’s vice president and dean of admissions, to Inside Higher Ed. "Some members must also engage their public legislatures, and that requires more time."

So why join and confuse everyone about your intentions? Evidently, the pressure of the moment was intense. For some schools, it was an opportunity to join a club they thought was either prestigious or likely to bring in more applications. For others, there was a great deal of arm twisting through other membership organizations that was difficult to resist.

But for all, it was a business decision. And some are beginning to regret hastily agreeing to join a group they knew little about and which attracted enormous push back from important stakeholders in the college admissions process as well as from colleagues at other institutions who were snubbed by not being invited to the party.

In fact, there are stories of meetings convened by colleges to discuss participation in the Coalition and quiet agreements to stand down, if for no other reason than to see which way the wind is blowing after the first year. Will the Coalition be successful in its stated goal of improving “the college application process for all students as they search for and apply to their perfect college”? Will the software function as promised? And most importantly, will the Coalition attract large numbers of applications further supporting institutional goals to appear more popular and/or more selective?

It all remains to be seen. And the Coalition members who have elected not to fully participate in the experiment are not apologetic about ducking the controversy.  

But for applicants getting organized for the coming year, it would be nice to know who is in and who plans to sit on the Coalition bench for 2016-17. 

As of this publication, the following Coalition members have announced or otherwise signaled they will not be accepting the new application for the coming year (note that this list may not be complete and is subject to change—there are no guarantees as to its accuracy):

  • Bates College
  • Brown University*
  • Colorado College
  • Connecticut College*
  • Cornell University*
  • Dartmouth University*
  • Denison University*
  • Florida State University*
  • Franklin and Marshal*
  • Franklin Olin College of Engineering
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Grinnell College*
  • Haverford College*
  • James Madison University*
  • Miami University OH*
  • Michigan State University
  • Middlebury College*
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Oberlin College
  • Princeton University
  • Ramapo College of New Jersey*
  • Skidmore College*
  • Smith College*
  • University of Georgia*
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign*
  • University of Mary Washington*
  • University of Michigan*
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill*
  • University of Vermont
  • Vassar College*
  • Wesleyan University*
According to sources in the admissions office, the University of New Hampshire is still unsure as to whether or not it will be ready to accept the new application. And the colleges that have indicated they will be "Coalition-exclusive" are the University of Florida, University of Maryland-College Park, and the University of Washington-Seattle.

Because many colleges haven’t revised their websites to reflect participation in the CAAS, it’s wise to call or email admissions offices for the most current and up-to-date information on whether or not they will be accepting the Coalition application during 2016-17. Don’t take for granted that membership in the Coalition means the school will be accepting the new application. 

*Confirmed by phone call to the admissions office

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