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This Isn’t Forward Progress

Our prize-winning Alumni Magazine consistently contains nuggets of somewhat subversive, or at least revisionist, information about the College and its history. Look at this side-by-side comparison of the profiles of the Classes of 1966 and 2016. Quite a contradiction to the received wisdom that the College has left behind the supposed bad old days in favor of a modern, progressive present:

DAM 1966-2016.jpg

Admissions figures show that we have to work a lot harder today to fill the freshman class. Though the number of applicants is much greater now, we aren’t so sure that the people we accept actually have a particular desire to come to Hanover. That’s why only 16.6% of the Class of 1966 was accepted early decision (ED), as opposed to 41% of the Class of 2016.

In order to fill the slots of students not admitted ED, for the Class of 1966 Admissions had to accept another 1,159 students, of whom 58.6% decided to come to Hanover. For the Class of 2016, Admissions let in 1,801 students in the regular pool, so that 648 would fill out the freshman class. That’s a yield of only 36.0%.

There were a few more legacies in the old days: 16.8% of the Class of 1966; and 14.1% of the Class of 2016. But the recent class had 40% of its members from prep schools versus only 24.8% in the supposed preppy days of yore. That’s a surprise, no? (Longtime readers will recall that the percentage of students from private schools jumped from the low-30%’s to 40% as part of the Kim administration’s attempt to ramp up tuition revenue. The number dropped sharply for the Class of 2019.)

Finally, look at the financial figures. Tuition (that’s tuition alone; no room and board and fees) soared from $1,800 for the Class of 1966 to $49,998 for the Class of 2016. Had tuition increased in line with inflation, the ‘16’s would have paid only $13,391.

The endowment grew remarkably, too: from $129 million in 1966 to $4.7 billion in 2016. Had the endowment only grown with inflation, it would just be $958 million today. That latter statistic bears thought: even though the endowment has grown almost five times faster than inflation — an extraordinary performance, considering that the College draws out about 5% from it each year to fund operations — we still have had to have super-inflationary tuition increases because the extra income from the endowment has not been enough to fund our bloated cost structure.

Addendum: A close observer of the College writes in:

In the class of 1966, the typical Dartmouth student had probably applied to two or three other colleges. Today, members of the class of 2016 averaged between ten and twenty applications to various colleges. That is one reason historical comparisons of the exponential increase in applicants for the College’s available seats are an “apples to oranges” exercise. Ideally, there would be a way to factor in how many other schools each prospective student applied to, effectively “discounting” the value of today’s applications.

The increase in private school-background matriculants is not a surprise, either. Public high school education quality has steadily declined, particularly outside of select, high-end enclaves (such as Hanover) where the adult community is highly educated and relatively affluent, with commensurate expectations and resources accelerating their youthful gene pool and comparatively solid family contexts that would help the kids excel in almost any school system.

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