Students spent an estimated $470 million on application fees for undergraduate admissions in 2021, based on data from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The IPEDS data shows a total of 10,055,109 applications for admission and a weighted average application fee of $46.70.
About half of application fee revenue, $229 million, is spent by students whose applications are rejected. If current trends continue, the total annual spending on application fees is in excess of half a billion dollars.
How to Cut Application Fee Costs
Students can reduce their application fee costs with these tips:
- Limit the number of applications submitted to reduce application and test score fees
- Seek application fee waivers if you are eligible
- Use free application platforms, such as the Cappex Application and Greenlight Scholars Application
Demographic Analysis of Application Fees
Additional insights from the IPEDS data include:
- $210 million in fees was from males and $259 million was from females
- $279 million in fee revenue went to public schools, an average of $434,376 per school
- $188 million in fee revenue went to private, nonprofit schools, averaging $156,451 per school
- Fee revenue received by private, for-profit colleges was $2 million
- Application fees from Pell Grant recipients was $138 million, or 29% of the total
- Application fees from minority students are about $153 million, or 33% of the total
- Application fees increased from $178 million in 2001 to $252 million in 2005 to $470 million in 2015
Selective Schools Charge Higher Application Fees
Schools that accept less than 20% of their applicants receive an average of $1.27 million per school, compared with $155,619 per school among those that accept 40% or more of applicants. The average application fees are $62.12 and $30.52, respectively.
This chart shows admissions fee revenue by selectivity, demonstrating that the most selective schools charge twice the application fees of less selective schools.
A similar result occurs with admissions test scores. Higher ACT test scores correlate with higher application fees and higher total application fee revenue.
The average application fee is $74.73 for schools with a 75th percentile ACT test score of 34 or more, compared with $30.62 for a 75th percentile ACT test score of 21 or less.