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College Application Fees Total Half a Billion Dollars Each Year

on August 8, 2017

Students spent an estimated $470 million on application fees for undergraduate college admissions in 2015, based on an analysis of data from the 2015 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The IPEDS data shows a total of 10,055,109 applications for admission and a weighted average application fee of $46.70. If current trends continue, the total annual spending on application fees is in excess of half a billion dollars.

 

How to Cut Application Fee Costs

 

Students can reduce their college application fee costs with these tips:

  • Limit the number of college applications submitted to reduce total fees. Not only do many colleges charge application fees, but there also are fees for submitting admissions test scores to each college.
     
  • Seek application fee waivers if you are eligible
     
  • Use college application platforms that do not charge application fees, such as the Cappex Application and Greenlight Scholars Application

Demographic Analysis of Application Fees

 

Additional insights from the IPEDS data include:

  • $210 million in application fees is from male applicants and $259 million from female applicants
     
  • $279 million in application fee revenue is to public colleges, an average of $434,376 per college, and $188 million to private, nonprofit colleges, an average of $156,451 per college. Application fee revenue received by private, for-profit colleges totals only about $2 million, since most for-profit colleges do not charge application fees.
     
  • Application fees from Pell Grant recipients is about $138 million, or 29 percent of the total. These figures are based on the percentage of total enrollment that receives Federal Pell Grants, which tends to be lower than the percentage of first-year students receiving Pell Grants. These figures are not offset by application fee waivers because that data is not available.
     
  • Application fees from minority students are about $153 million, or 33 percent of the total. These figures are based on the percentage of graduating students who are from underrepresented minority student populations, which is lower than the percentage of first-year students who are minority students. These figures are not offset by application fee waivers.

Linear Growth in Total Application Fee Revenue

Annual growth in application fee revenue is linear, as illustrated in this chart. Total application fees increased from $178 million in 2001 to $252 million in 2005 to $470 million in 2015. Based on the trends shown in this chart, the total application fee revenue should be at about $500 million in 2017.

 

Selective Colleges Charge Higher Application Fees

 

Colleges that are more selective — meaning ones that admit a small percentage of applicants — receive more application fee revenue than less selective colleges. Colleges that accept less than 20 percent of their applicants receive an average of $1.27 million per college, compared with $155,619 per college among colleges that accept 40 percent or more of their applicants. The average application fees are $62.12 and $30.52, respectively.

 

This chart shows average admissions fee revenue and average application fees by selectivity, demonstrating that the most selective colleges are able to charge twice the application fees of less selective colleges. It suggests that the most selective colleges have greater pricing power.

 

 

A similar result occurs with admissions test scores. Higher ACT test scores correlate with higher application fees and higher total application fee revenue, as illustrated in this chart. The average application fee is $74.73 for colleges with a 75th percentile ACT test score of 34 or more, compared with $30.62 for a 75th percentile ACT test score of 21 or less.

 

 

Top 25 Colleges by Application Fee Revenue

 

This table shows the top 25 colleges by total application fee revenue.

 

INSTNM

Average

Application

Fee

Application

Fee

Revenue

University of California-Los Angeles

$70

$6,488,300

University of California-Berkeley

$70

$5,522,510

University of California-San Diego

$70

$5,464,270

University of California-Irvine

$70

$5,024,250

University of California-Santa Barbara

$70

$4,937,520

University of California-Davis

$70

$4,522,140

Boston University

$80

$4,382,480

University of Southern California

$80

$4,153,920

New York University

$70

$4,040,890

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

$75

$3,884,775

Stanford University

$90

$3,824,730

Northeastern University

$75

$3,789,225

Cornell University

$80

$3,352,000

San Diego State University

$55

$3,247,805

California State University-Long Beach

$55

$3,195,995

University of California-Santa Cruz

$70

$3,187,240

The University of Texas at Austin

$75

$3,179,400

Columbia University in the City of New York

$85

$3,137,435

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

$75

$3,009,750

Fordham University

$70

$2,996,770

Harvard University

$75

$2,798,025

University of Pennsylvania

$75

$2,795,100

Purdue University-Main Campus

$60

$2,715,840

University of California-Riverside

$70

$2,695,770

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

$50

$2,673,600

 

This table shows the top 25 public colleges by total application fee revenue.

 

INSTNM

Average

Application

Fee

Application

Fee

Revenue

University of California-Los Angeles

$70

$6,488,300

University of California-Berkeley

$70

$5,522,510

University of California-San Diego

$70

$5,464,270

University of California-Irvine

$70

$5,024,250

University of California-Santa Barbara

$70

$4,937,520

University of California-Davis

$70

$4,522,140

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

$75

$3,884,775

San Diego State University

$55

$3,247,805

California State University-Long Beach

$55

$3,195,995

University of California-Santa Cruz

$70

$3,187,240

The University of Texas at Austin

$75

$3,179,400

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

$75

$3,009,750

Purdue University-Main Campus

$60

$2,715,840

University of California-Riverside

$70

$2,695,770

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

$50

$2,673,600

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

$70

$2,578,800

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

$55

$2,575,100

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

$55

$2,539,075

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

$80

$2,491,440

Texas A & M University-College Station

$75

$2,490,975

University of Connecticut

$70

$2,448,460

Ohio State University-Main Campus

$60

$2,414,400

California State University-Fullerton

$55

$2,301,255

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

$65

$2,297,100

University of Virginia-Main Campus

$70

$2,158,800

 

This table shows the top 25 private colleges by total application fee revenue.

 

INSTNM

Average

Application

Fee

Application

Fee

Revenue

Boston University

$80

$4,382,480

University of Southern California

$80

$4,153,920

New York University

$70

$4,040,890

Stanford University

$90

$3,824,730

Northeastern University

$75

$3,789,225

Cornell University

$80

$3,352,000

Columbia University in the City of New York

$85

$3,137,435

Fordham University

$70

$2,996,770

Harvard University

$75

$2,798,025

University of Pennsylvania

$75

$2,795,100

Duke University

$85

$2,653,700

Syracuse University

$75

$2,494,050

Yale University

$80

$2,418,880

Northwestern University

$75

$2,409,150

University of Miami

$70

$2,339,330

Brown University

$75

$2,279,700

University of Chicago

$75

$2,255,175

Washington University in St Louis

$75

$2,194,425

Boston College

$70

$2,064,020

Hofstra University

$70

$1,959,370

Liberty University

$40

$1,957,440

St John's University-New York

$50

$1,804,300

Johns Hopkins University

$70

$1,783,180

Princeton University

$65

$1,773,850

Dartmouth College

$80

$1,640,560

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