Monday, May 16, 2011

Are University Applications a Profit Center?

It is reasonable for prospective students to pay some fee to apply to a university program. However, these fees seem to be rising fast. This makes me wonder if university applications are seen as a profit center rather than just something whose cost must be covered.

A student I know recently paid $192.50 to apply to three programs at one university in Ontario. I’d be interested in seeing a justification of this price. It seems high enough that someone is making a profit.

Many applications can be handled quickly because the student either definitely qualifies or definitely doesn’t qualify. Borderline cases are more costly to handle, but it seems unlikely that the average cost could justify the price of $192.50.

I’d be interested to hear expert opinions on costs from readers who have knowledge of the application process.


  1. The University that I work at charges $100 for their application fee (up from $75 last year).

    I believe they charge this fee because students apply to multiple institutions, and the fee is a way to ensure the student is serious about their intention to enroll at that particular University.

    Even if applications are a profit centre for the University, is that a big deal?

    Many of these applicants attend orientation events in the late Spring/early Summer for free without having officially agreeing to attend the University. Many don't end up attending afterwards.

    Surely there are recruiting costs associated with these events?

  2. @Echo: I have no problem with application fees for the purpose of recovering reasonable costs. However, if these fees are set well above actual costs, then I'd like to know where the profit is going. These are not private institutions. They soak up massive numbers of tax dollars. In addition, the costs for students have been rising faster than inflation for some time. Rising application fees just add to this.