The percentage of students accepted at many of the nation’s top institutions hit new lows, while waiting lists reached new heights, says Barmak Nassirian, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Mr. Nassirian points to the economic downturn as fueling uncertainty among colleges about how many accepted students would actually attend — the so-called yield. “The underlying method by which families have historically paid for college was basically obliterated by the triple whammy that this recession has delivered,” he says.

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