Drexel University will withhold merit raises from faculty and staff this fiscal year as the school continues to adjust to less revenue as a result of an admissions strategy designed to attract fewer, but more serious and better qualified, applicants.

President John A. Fry announced the move in an email to the campus this week.

"Our decision to change from a 'volume-based' approach to recruiting students will result in a period of decreased revenues from smaller incoming classes," Fry wrote. "During this five-year transition period, we have to adjust our spending to maintain our financial strength."

Professional staff and faculty who are paid $75,000 a year or less and were hired before July 2016 will receive a 2 percent cost of living raise, Fry said. If the university ends the 2016-17 fiscal year better off than expected, Drexel officials will consider a salary increase for those earning between $75,000 and $150,000, he said.

A university spokeswoman said Drexel would have no comment beyond Fry's statement.

The announcement follows several other belt-tightening moves by the private West Philadelphia university. For fiscal 2015-16, Drexel cut $20 million from its operating budget, including several dozen layoffs. For this fiscal year, Drexel reduced expenses or increased revenue by $43 million to balance the budget, Fry wrote.

Drexel announced its admissions overhaul in January 2015. The university said it would add a $50 application fee and eliminate its "VIP" fast application, which required neither an essay nor recommendations.

The move was an effort to decrease applications from students who were not serious about attending Drexel. In 2014, only 8 percent of students who were offered admission enrolled, a very low yield rate.

The following year, as a result of the changes, applications were halved, and Drexel's yield rose to 13.7 percent. As a result the incoming class was smaller, and that meant less revenue.

This fall's class of 2,330 freshmen is down again, from 2,720 in 2015.

Fry said in the email that he was pleased with the results of the admissions overhaul, noting that nearly 90 percent of freshmen returned this fall for their sophomore year.

"By increasing retention and graduation rates over the long term, we expect Drexel's academic reputation to improve significantly," he wrote. "That, in turn, will enhance our ability to enroll more students prepared to succeed at Drexel."


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