College application costs are a money grab

Staff Editorial, The Voice of California High School

As getting into college is becoming more and more competitive because of an explosion in the number of applicants, colleges have found a way to profit at the expense of students.  

It is common knowledge that college tuition can be absurdly high and can leave many students in debt for much of their lives. But a less discussed topic is the rising cost of college applications.  Applicants generally can pay $30 to $90 per school.  Although submitting an application in no way ensures a student will be accepted, applicants continue to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars a year just applying to schools.

Application fees have become another part of the broken education system. According to Stanford’s website, 43,997 people applied to Stanford in 2016, paying close to $90 each to apply, depending on levels of financial aid. 

Only 2,063 of those applicants were actually accepted. Stanford nonetheless collected $3.6 million from the rejected 40,000 students.  

This trend seems to be linear with more and more schools.  According to UCLA’s news website, UCLA received over 137,000 applications in 2017.  The price to apply to a UC school is $70, meaning UCLA collected close to $9.6 million for applications alone.  

That is an incredibly large sum of money to just pay application board members’ salaries.

The cost of applications is just a small part of a much larger and more expensive problem. The increased competition to get into a “good” college has led to an arms race of SAT prep, AP tests, private tutors, and college essay advisers. Combine the cost of these resources with the cost of college applications and tuition, it’s no surprise that most graduates don’t pay off their student loans until their mid 40s, according to CNBC.  

UC Berkeley’s website lists the requirements to be an admission reader: a bachelor’s degree, ability to read for 10-15 hours a week, familiarity with data science/analysis, and ability to communicate effectively.  

These are scant requirements to determine so many young students’ futures. Starting pay for readers is $25 an hour.  What then, is a college like UCLA spending their $9.6 million on?  Unless they have thousands of admissions readers, that money can’t only be spent on salaries.      

It is shameful for colleges to charge such prices for applications, especially when they know only a small percentage of applicants will be accepted.  

Colleges have sensed that if they raise the application fee as more and more students aspire to go to college, they can make more money. In the last 10 years, most colleges have raised their application fees from an average of less than $10 to $30, according to

But college applications have changed during this century.  In the 1970s and 1980s, students mailed their applications. Today, the entire application process is online and submitted electronically, so increasing college application costs does not make sense. The convenience of the internet should not increase the price of applying. If anything it should decrease it.

Colleges are abusing student competition to make a profit, and it’s wrong.