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Direct admission offers act as a “nudge” for students to consider college, but paying the bill may remain a challenge, said Jennifer A. Delaney, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Education. She was one of the authors of both studies while she was a professor of higher education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “If you can’t pay for it, that’s a problem,” she said.

Some colleges and students are nevertheless enthusiastic.

George Mason University, a large public university in Virginia, offers direct admission through the Common App and through a partnership with local high schools. The university first offered direct admission through the Common App in 2022, when 28 students enrolled. The following year, just six enrolled. That may be because more colleges are now participating in direct admission, so it’s become more competitive, said David Burge, the university’s vice president for enrollment management. Still, “it’s going very well,” he said, adding, “From our perspective, but for the Common App Direct Admissions program these students would not be at Mason.”

James Steen, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Houston Christian University, a private Baptist college with roughly 4,200 students, including about 2,400 traditional undergraduates, said more than 6 percent of the first-year class enrolling for the fall of 2023 were from Niche’s direct admission channel. “Direct admission is a great fit for H.C.U.,” he said.

The university began offering direct admissions through Niche in 2022 (for applications for the current academic year), offering scholarships based on several G.P.A. “tiers.” (It also began participating in direct admissions through the Common App in November.)

Steven Navarrette, 18, from Manvel, Texas, received an email from Niche when he was a high school senior, saying he had been accepted by Houston Christian. He was initially skeptical, he said, but toured the school, located about 30 minutes from his hometown, and decided to enroll after receiving sufficient financial aid. He is now in his second semester, majoring in computer science. “The process is less of a headache,” he said of direct admission.

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