Fewer prospective students are choosing to come to Emerson, and because of this, the admissions office has begun to accept more students, according to annual data published by the college.
In 2006, Emerson admitted 2,289 students, or 47 percent of the total applicants. Of those admitted, 32 percent ended up enrolling, for a freshman class of 727.
In 2014, there were nearly twice as many applicants, and nearly twice as many—4,283—were admitted, at an acceptance rate of 49 percent. Yet only 20 percent enrolled, creating a freshman class of a comparable size to 2006, 857.
Christopher Wright, director of undergraduate admission and enrollment technology, said as prospective students apply to more colleges across the country , fewer end up getting their higher education in New England.
Among students who enrolled in colleges in the fall of 2008, only 22 percent had applied to seven or more schools, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. In 2012, that percentage rose to 28.
The college graduation rate has increased more slowly in New England than elsewhere in the nation because there are relatively fewer students of college age in the region, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s policy research center. Wright said colleges in the region now have to compete more for the smaller pool of qualified students from New England.
With this increased competition, Wright said Emerson now needs to accept more students from other regions so the same total number will enroll, keeping the incoming class size consistent. This means, he said, that the overall acceptance rate will be higher.
“There’s no magic rubric,” said Wright in an email. “We look at internal trends over the course of many years to help us predict how many students we should admit to ultimately enroll.”
Except Suffolk University and the University of Massachusetts Boston, other institutions in Boston, like Northeastern University, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University have significantly lower admission rates than Emerson.
In Suffolk’s latest available enrollment information, from Fall 2013, about 16 percent of students admitted actually enrolled. At University of Massachusetts Boston, about 26 percent of admitted students enrolled for Fall 2014.
“When I see a school with a high acceptance rate, I think, ‘Oh, it’s easy to get in. It’s not that great of a school,’” said Vishwang Gowariker, a freshman visual and media arts major. “So I think by doing that, they’re accepting the fact that Emerson is a second or third choice for a lot of people. The reputation of it will change.”
Wright said that these neighboring schools have different focuses than Emerson. Those colleges offer a wider range of majors, he said, and Emerson focuses on majors that have to do with arts and communication.
“We’re all investing in an Emerson diploma,” said Ryan Carino, a junior marketing communication major. “You got to hope the utility of that hasn’t gone down in the last two years or even 10 years.”
According to Wright, Emerson’s retention rate is the best sign that the school is doing well. He said that 89 percent of last year’s entering class returned for a second year.
“We know that ultimately,” said Wright, “the right students select us for the right reason.”
News Editor Dina Kleiner, Assistant News Editor David A. Bumpus, and Managing Editor Christina Jedra contributed to this report.