What does your college’s yield rate say about you?
In an op-ed essay published by Charlottesville’s The Daily Progress last week, Paul Tudor Jones II, a 1976 graduate of the University of Virginia, listed several “alarming facts” about his alma mater. Among them was UVa’s yield—the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll. (Full disclosure: I’m a UVa graduate.)
Mr. Jones suggested that Virginia’s yield—43 percent for this fall’s incoming class—was too low. He compared it to that of Harvard (over 80 percent), Stanford (73 percent), Yale (66 percent) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (56 percent). “This final statistic is perhaps most distressing,” wrote Mr. Jones, an investor, philanthropist, and a major donor to UVa.
In a written response published by The Daily Progress on Sunday, Greg W. Roberts, the university’s dean of admission, described Mr. Jones’s comments as “misleading.” UVa’s yield rate has fallen, he explained, since the university dropped its binding early-decision program, in 2008. Moreover, Mr. Roberts, who described “the confusion and misinformation” associated with yield, put Virginia’s statistics in context—something that’s so often lacking in discussions of admissions metrics.
If you want to compare one state flagship’s yield rate with another’s, for instance, it helps to note how many in-state students enroll in each institution, as Mr. Roberts does in his comparison of UVa and UNC. You might want to ask about the quality of the students who enroll. And you might want to know whether yields have been falling at many other selective colleges (they have).
Or you may want to abandon your fixation on yield altogether. After all, the rate, on its own, doesn’t tell you much. Mr. Jones is just one alumnus of one college, but his concerns about yield reflect the thinking of many trustees, donors, presidents, professors, parents, and students, who attribute great meaning to the number, as if it’s some precise measurement of institutional greatness, as if it tells you how much students learn, think, and grow after they matriculate.
This UVa graduate concluded long ago that yield-gazing is a silly exercise—just as silly as Mr. Jones’s lament that UVa slipped, by one spot, in The U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings last year. So often, it seems, gripes about these sorts of admissions statistics say more about those doing the griping than about a particular college.