More than half of the nation’s colleges and universities aren’t able to fill their classrooms, according to a Gallup Poll of admissions directors.

The annual Survey of College and University Admissions Directors commissioned by the national online news source Inside Higher Ed found that 77 percent of public colleges and 59 percent of private colleges were not able to meet their enrollment goals for their current freshmen classes by last May. That’s the usual deadline for admitted students to let colleges know if they’ll be enrolling the fall.

California’s public colleges and universities are not facing the same pressures. Nearly 175,000 students applied to the University of California for this year’s freshman class, an all time high. California community colleges have had to turn away half a million students in recent years because budget cuts forced them to reduce their course offerings. Some of the most sought after California State University campuses have been so impacted that they’re application standards are tougher than the rest of the system.

Most of the admissions directors put little stock in national college rankings, like the one developed by U.S. News and World Report, or in college guides as a way to entice students, and said they plan to step up their recruitment activities.

“In a sign of how desperate some institutions may be,” reported Inside Higher Ed, the survey found that more than a quarter of admissions officers admitted to violating a ban by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and recruited applicants who had already committed to other schools.

In a finding that could resonate with parents who shell out thousands of dollars to hire private college counselors, only 14 percent of admissions directors said they were effective.

On Oct. 10, Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik will present a webinar to provide an analysis of the survey results and answer questions.

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