Student no-shows worry colleges

It's not just the airlines that have problems with people who reserve seats but fail to show up. Colleges also now report an increasing number of no-shows.

Though a certain percentage of dropouts between deposit-admission time early in the calendar year and the actual start of fall courses is natural for students applying to several campuses, it's higher than normal at some institutions. The University of Wisconsin, for instance, found that 8 percent (a 2 percent jump from the previous year) of those accepted and insisting they were coming failed to enroll last fall.

Admission and financial-aid officers point the finger of blame at the drop in federal student aid and at the economy in general.

The result, affecting everything from dormitory reservations to the number of sections of freshman English needed, can put a crimp in college planning. Just as the airlines have found overbooking an effective, if defensive, response, so some of the schools most affected are admitting more students than they can really handle and expanding waiting lists. Others are scrambling to try to put together enough financial aid to make up for the Washington gap.

Many private schools are worried, says Benny Walker, director of financial aid at South Carolina's Furman University, which is trying both defensive ploys. Their prime concern is that the current financial squeeze may discourage students from low- and middle-income families from even applying to high-cost institutions. Both college and student body will be losers with a less rich academic and socioeconomic mix, he says.

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