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High Point University boasts on its website "8 benefits of applying early decision."

Among the privileges offered to early-decision applicants who are admitted:

  • "Receive first priority for housing."
  • "Receive a personal parking space just for you -- for your entire freshman year."
  • Can move in a day early.
  • Get "first priority in selecting their fall class schedule."
  • Get early access to a success coach.
  • "Receive complimentary access to an exclusive Life Skills and Leadership Luncheon held inside 1924 Prime with career office leaders. You'll get insider tips and connections that will help you jumpstart your professional network. Talk about getting ahead of the competition!"

To some admissions experts, the benefits are an example of what the National Association for College Admission Counseling for years -- until last month -- officially opposed. Until NACAC changed its rules last month (under pressure from the Justice Department, which sees antitrust issues), the association specifically told colleges to "not offer incentives exclusive to students applying or admitted under an early decision application plan. Examples of incentives include the promise of special housing, enhanced financial aid packages, and special scholarships for early decision admits."

So NACAC used to ban incentives like this. But it turns out High Point, a member of NACAC, adopted its new policies before NACAC voted to change the rules.

Or consider Colorado Christian University. It has a "preferred admission program" (nonbinding) in which those who apply early may be admitted early.

"Students who have applied, been admitted to the university, and have submitted a $150 nonrefundable tuition deposit by December 1, are eligible to receive the following additional incentives:

  • An additional $1,000 scholarship per year ($4,000 maximum for up to eight semesters).
  • A special invitation to the President's Christmas Brunch at Denver's famous Brown Palace on December 8, 2019.
  • Early housing registration in March."

Colorado Christian also had the policies in place before NACAC voted.

Lance J. Oversole, director of communications at Colorado Christian, declined to answer questions about NACAC and how the rules debate influenced the university, but he did share the university's perspective on preferred admission.

We "began our preferred admission program in fall 2015, for the incoming class enrolling in fall 2016. CCU began the program as an incentive for high school seniors or transfer students who identified CCU as one of their top college choices for fall admission. By completing the application process before December 1 each year, this provides students and families the opportunity [to] resolve their college choice early in the fall semester through a nonrestrictive/nonbinding process, which may avoid the necessity of submitting multiple applications to various universities," he said.

Andy Bills, senior vice president for enrollment at High Point, said via email, "High Point University has offered an early decision plan since 2007. HPU's transformational growth in academic programming and experiential learning opportunities has attracted more students to apply early decision to secure admissions acceptance at their first choice for college. The early decision application plan benefits students and their families by removing the stress of the college application process and transition to college, while also jump-starting their academic career. For example, early decision students receive early access to their Success Coach -- a unique program that highlights HPU’s recognition as a National Top 40 Leader in First Year Experience by U.S. News & World Report. Success Coaches help all new students identify majors and extracurricular opportunities such as research, as well as build class schedules."

He said he was not sure when High Point started offering all of the benefits, but that most have been in place "for a couple of years now."

To many, the questions about the discoveries that two NACAC members were violating the association's policies (when they were in place) raises a question of whether NACAC could enforce rules it had in place.

NACAC is taking the view that it wants colleges to honor its principles, but it isn't saying more.

David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy at NACAC, said, "We are aware that colleges are taking advantage of the new space created by the elimination of the three ethical/professional practice standards at the heart of the Department of Justice investigation. We are also aware that there are institutions taking advantage of the moratorium on enforcement of our ethical principles. We encourage institutions to consider the best interests of students, and protect their ability to make informed enrollment decisions without being subjected to undue pressure. We also encourage colleges to consider the equity implications for their admission policies, given the significant gaps in college access for underserved populations."

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