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The Great College Scare That Didn't Pan Out

Last Updated Jul 30, 2009 2:22 AM EDT

Remember all those panicky media stories in recent months that predicted that the recession was forcing teenagers to abandon their dreams of attending private schools?

If you believed the news reports, private colleges and universities were going to have nobody show up for their freshman orientation in the fall. But guess what? All those sky-is-falling predictions were dead wrong.

A new survey of private colleges and universities suggests that the teenagers heading to these private institution is actually going to increase this fall. The increase is projected to be less than 1% over the previous school year, but it's still a heck of a lot better than the specter of ivy-covered ghost towns.

So how did private schools divert disaster? For starters, according to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the institutions were more generous. The average private college increased its financial aid by 9%.
At the same time, many private schools resisted the urge to raise their tuition at the kind of levels that they can usually get away with. And frankly some schools were less picky about who got acceptance letters. (Sounds like good news for "C" students.) A majority of institutions not only welcomed more applicants, but one-third of schools accepted late applications or extended their admission cycle.

At least for the coming school year, private colleges dodged the bullet.