Lawsuit Alters ED Process

Drew Kaplan ’20, Editor in Chief

In the beginning of the academic year, Dickinson College announced that it would no longer offer applicants the option to apply Early Action (EA), instead seeking to boost the number of Early Decision (ED) applications. However, the rules governing ED applications have been altered following a lawsuit against the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC), an organization of which Dickinson College is a member, by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ argued that certain portions of the NACAC ethical code violated anti-trust legislation.

An article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education explained that NACAC removed sections of its Code of Ethics and Professional Practice pursuant to pressure from the DOJ. The DOJ alleged that certain sections of the code violated anti-trust legislation by unduly restricting competition amongst colleges and universities, increasing the cost of higher education. A communication from NACAC to member institutions described the removed passages as “items that the DOJ believes inhibit, to some extent, competition among colleges for students.” Vice President of Enrollment Management Cathy Davenport explained the NACAC policies targeted by the DOJ included “incentivizing a student to apply Early Decision, adhering to a May 1 National Candidate Reply Date,” the deadline by which applicants were required to accept or reject an offer of admission, and an “agreement to not recruit a student who has enrolled at another college.” Despite these incentives now being permitted, Davenport explained that the impact they might have on early decision applications is unclear.

In an email, Davenport explained her belief “that some colleges and universities may engage in practices that are not in the best interest of their institution in the long run in order to meet short-term goals,” however, Davenport noted it is “difficult” to determine how these changes will affect the applicant pool, as “colleges who have Early Decision tend to have a November 1, November 15 or December 1 deadline and we have not passed any of those deadlines.”

However, Davenport noted that the college still plans to offer both early decision deadlines to potential applicants, on Nov. 15 and Jan. 15, as well as the regular decision deadline of Jan. 15. “Our enrollment team continues to carefully explain to students what it means to apply Early Decision and the expectation that if a student is admitted then he or she understand the commitment to enroll,” Davenport explained, “if this is not understood by a student then we do not want the student to apply Early Decision but rather be in the Regular applicant pool.”

President Margee Ensign noted, that “we don’t have any data yet to know how [the NACAC changes are] going to affect everyone,” however, “excitement for Dickinson is very evident not only in the numbers of people who are coming but with emails.” Ensign added that the changes regarding ED applications are “a nationwide change so I think it’s just too early to predict what’s going to happen.” 

Davenport explained, however, that “as we eliminated the Early Action application program before the NACAC/DOJ issue was made known publicly in late August or early September,” the college had already begun looking towards early decision applications as the basis for the class of 2024. “Our goal is to increase the number of students selecting Dickinson as first-choice by applying Early Decision,” Davenport noted, and while “the elimination of Early Action will likely cause a decrease in overall applications but it will be a more serious pool of applicants.”