Minnesota schools waive application fees

Schools are encouraging high schoolers to apply this month.

Julia Marshall

This month, colleges and universities across the state have been offering incentives like waived application fees to recruit more students.

The University of Minnesota is part of a statewide push, called College Knowledge Month, aiming to help high school students understand the college admissions process and gain better access.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education created the initiative to encourage schools to waive their admissions fees to try and get more students to apply throughout October.

Twenty-five institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are waiving application fees for all new students from Oct. 25-31.

The University isn’t changing the cost it takes to apply during October — the school offers a waiver for low-income students year-round — but it is ramping up recruitment efforts at high schools.

Associate vice provost of enrollment management and director of admissions Rachelle Hernandez said University volunteers are visiting high schools to help students understand financial aid and the application process as a part of College Knowledge Month.

Some private schools are discounting their application fees this month as well, Minnesota Private College Council spokesperson John Manning said.

The statewide program is focused on helping high school students make an informed decision, Manning said, not just about promoting specific colleges.

“The reason colleges would be involved in this wouldn’t be because they want to see their own particular institution’s application numbers go up; it’s more of a community service piece,” he said.

Like Minnesota private colleges, Hernandez said the University is focused on the community service aspect and helping students.

“We’re really focusing on that counseling perspective, of helping students find a good match in their college search process,” she said.

When the program made its debut in 2011, it was only a weeklong initiative. Only 17 institutions participated, and 10,000 students submitted 15,700 applications, more than double the same week a year earlier. In 2012, 14,000 students submitted 24,000 applications, according to Minnesota Department of Education data.

But more applications doesn’t necessarily mean more students were enrolling, Minnesota Office of Higher Education communications specialist Jessica Larson said. Many students tried to apply to as many schools as possible to utilize the fee waiver, even if they won’t likely attend the institutions,

“When it was a week … we saw a huge increase in the number of applications going to these colleges, but it wasn’t necessarily matriculating into numbers that were showing up on campus,” Larson said.

She said this year, for the first time, the effort will last an entire month to give students more time to prepare and take advantage of the program’s incentives.