The independent news organization of Duke University

UNC becomes first to cut early admits

Just less than six months after Yale University President Richard Levin proposed a nationwide elimination of early-decision admissions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week became the first highly selective university to abolish the practice.

Duke officials, in response to their Tobacco Road neighbors' decision, said the move will add fuel to the growing debate on the issue, but that Duke will retain its early decision process.

"At Duke, we have decided to continue to limit the number of students we take by early admission, rather than dropping the process," President Nan Keohane wrote in an e-mail. "We will continue to concentrate on recruiting and admitting most of our students in the regular decision pool."

Duke currently limits the number of students it admits early to about a third of each class, said Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag.

In his December statements to The New York Times, Levin said the process forces high school students to decide too early on their college of choice and also limits diversity by favoring students from private or affluent public schools, who are not as dependent on the financial aid packages specified only after binding admission.

UNC-CH and its chancellor, James Moeser, agreed. "We want to encourage students to approach their education seriously, not by using strategy, and we hope to contribute to a national climate that encourages thoughtful choice," Moeser said in a statement.

According to the statement, an internal review conducted over the past several months showed that 82 percent of those admitted early-decision to UNC-CH were white, as opposed to 72 percent from the later pool--statistics that UNC-CH Director of Admissions Jerome Lucido said were a major factor in the decision.

"No matter how responsibly you run an early-decision program, it still tends to be a group of students who are more financially able and less diverse," Lucido said.

Twenty-four percent of early decision applicants to Duke this year listed themselves as minorities, compared to 34 percent of all applicants, regular and early.

Keohane said she was not surprised by UNC-CH's decision, as Moeser had previously told her that the university was considering it. She added that she thought some other universities may follow their lead.

"Since this was an institution making a decision it perceived to be in its best interest, I think any other institutions following suit would do so only for the same reasons," Guttentag wrote in an e-mail. "I'd be surprised if any institution that has a well-established early decision program followed suit."

Early decision was re-instituted at UNC-CH in 2000, after a more than 30-year hiatus. The university also has an early action process, which will remain. Guttentag said early action is not a likely alternative for Duke, and cited as rationale Brown University, which switched from early action to early decision effective next year because of lack of resources and time to evaluate all applications fairly.

Keohane said Duke will continue to evaluate its admissions process. "Although I remain convinced that early decision is a good choice for a small number of students every year, I do worry that too many students may feel compelled to declare early, even though they may not have thought carefully about their options," she said.