Giving It the Old College Nudge

The New York Times reports that savvy colleges are enjoying a 25% jump in admissions applications, despite a lagging economy.  The secret?  Using proven principles from behavioral economics and consumer marketing sciences.  This is giving little schools such as St. Rose in Albany a big boost in applications:

Last fall the college sent out 30,000 bright red “Exclusive Scholar Applications” to high school seniors that promised to waive the $40 application fee, invited them to skip the dreaded essay, and assured a decision in three weeks. Because the application arrived with the students’ names and other information already filled in, applying required little more than a signature.

This is exactly the sort of thing that hyperbolic discounting would suggest: remove as many of the upfront costs as possible (the application fee, the essay, even portions of the application) and you’ll see a big pop as you tap latent demand.

Now if they’d just waive the tuition…

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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