Tom Downey
Let’s Talk About Smarter Graduate Admissions Technology



American graduate education finds itself at a crucial crossroads.

Across academic disciplines, concern about application volume is particularly high when it comes to international students. According to a Council of Graduate Schools survey released in February 2019, international graduate applications fell by 4% from Fall 2017 to Fall 2018, including sharp declines in engineering (16%) as well as in physical and earth sciences (9%).

How will graduate programs replenish their pipelines and fill their seats? It starts with reimagining the admissions process through an improved way to recruit, enroll and admit best-fit students quickly and efficiently.

Liaison’s full-service answer to these concerns is GradCAS™. Today, more than 31,000 academic programs on over 1,000 campuses use a web-based Centralized Application Service (CAS™). Liaison has partnered with more than 30 professional associations to create over 40 discipline-specific iterations of the CAS, enabling the associations to better support their members by promoting best practices and the adoption of transformative technology.

GradCAS takes the efficiency of a CAS to a new level by allowing a student to apply to multiple graduate degree programs on one campus, or to multiple programs across multiple campuses, by submitting a single application for enrollment.

“While GradCAS will benefit all of our admissions stakeholders, we are especially excited that it will enhance the experience that we offer prospective students,” says LaTrice Byam, director of admissions and university registrar at Howard University. “Now that every graduate school applicant will apply through GradCAS, we’re able to save them time by facilitating applying to multiple programs with one set of application materials and reduce frustration with real-time status updates and on-call applicant support.”

With the second admissions cycle of GradCAS underway, participating schools like Howard are already seeing significant results. In fact, the platform is meaningfully addressing graduate education’s challenges in building diverse and global applicant pools.

At the midpoint of the platform’s second cycle, 20.5% of applicants through GradCAS were non-domestic. During 2018-19, 16% of applicants were Black, 15% were Asian, 8% were Hispanic and 9% came from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, while 52% were white. These results reflect the impact of the unique capabilities and tools within a CAS that help market programs to deeper applicant pools.

GradCAS participating member schools also saw a 382% increase in unique applicants from their first to second cycle using the platform, as well as a 90% reduction in manual administrative tasks and a 69% decrease in time to decision. Indeed, the average application review time of 36 hours for GradCAS has moved the process from a matter of weeks to a matter of days.

It’s not surprising, then, that the 40 schools that have now joined GradCAS represent a 471% increase in participation on the platform from its first cycle to its second. Given that trajectory, there’s no telling what the third cycle holds in store.

Tom Downey

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