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Colorado Free Application Day Sees Increased Submissions This Year

Colorado State University
John Eisele
Colorado State University Photography
Colorado State University was one of more than 30 institutions of higher learning that participated in Colorado Free Application day on Oct. 13.

More college-bound Coloradans applied to college for free this year.

Students submitted nearly 57,000 college and university admission applications during the third Colorado Free Application Day on Oct. 13. Participation increased 28% from last year and students saved more than $2.3 million in waived fees.

All the state’s 32 public colleges and universities and several private institutions participated in the event, receiving 56,896 applications. Colorado State University led with 10,336 applications, followed by the University of Colorado Boulder with 9,053. Statewide, submissions to four-year institutions went up by 24% compared to last year.

“What excites me is that, despite all of the uncertainty and challenges around COVID-19, students in Colorado are still thinking about college for next year,” said Heather Daniels, director of admissions at CSU, in a written statement on CSU’s website. “Many of them still aren’t in their schools, they’re not meeting with their counselors and they’re not seeing the posters from various colleges in their schools, and yet students are still excited about college. They’re applying in huge numbers, which is really gratifying.”

By eliminating fees, Colorado Free Application Day hopes to boost the state’s college-going rate and erase the racial disparities in higher education enrollment and graduation. This year, 44% of applications were submitted by students of color and over 28% by first-generation students, two groups that have historically lower college enrollment rates in Colorado.

The University of Northern Colorado received 5,837 applications, which was the third highest submission total. But the university wanted to do more to help students who may have missed the October deadline. So, it created its own free application days. The first was held on Dec. 1 and there will be two more days on Feb. 1 and April 1, with the latter geared towards transfer students.

“Some of the feedback we had received from counselors across the state was sometimes that was too early for them or obviously with the things happening with COVID right now, the students that might be in under-resourced schools or having trouble with Internet connections,” said Dave Fedorchak, director of admissions at UNC. “They weren't able to take part in that day.”

This year, the state also tracked the number of applications submitted without SAT/ACT scores. In the spring of 2020, the standardized tests were canceled across the country and in Colorado due to COVID-19. In response, the General Assembly passed legislation that allowed state colleges and universities to implement a test-optional policy for students who will graduate in 2021.

Of the applications to four-year institutions, 47% were submitted without SAT/ACT scores. But according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the percentage is likely much higher because four Colorado four-year institutions were unable to track test-optional numbers.