Lehigh acceptance rate hits historic low


The members of the class of 2022 haven’t arrived on campus yet, but they’ve already overcame a significant challenge: they were accepted to Lehigh with a 22 percent acceptance rate, a new record low in university history.

Out of the 15,623 students who applied for a spot in the class of 2022, 3,418 were selected from the Early Decision I, Early Decision II and regular decision applicant pools. 

Bruce Bunnick, the interim vice provost of admissions and financial aid, said this year’s total applicant pool was 12.6 percent larger than last year’s, which consisted of 13,871 students. Bunnick said Lehigh received more applicants this year than ever before, and he largely attributes this increase to expanded outreach efforts in the United States — specifically in California — and abroad.

“At the end of the day we’re trying to attract students who will be a good fit for Lehigh,” Bunnick said. “We’re trying to diversify the campus and (globalize) the campus.”

Lehigh’s Western Regional Office has helped attract prospective students, and Bunnick said the opportunity to engage with undergraduates, faculty and alumni also encourages students to apply.

As Lehigh’s application becomes more competitive, the university is also becoming more expensive.

Tuition for the 2018-19 academic year has increased by 4.3 percent, bringing the total cost of attendance to a record high of $66,730.

Patricia A. Johnson, the vice provost for finance and administration, said additional costs will go toward merit increases for faculty, the costs of signing on new faculty, financial aid increases, and utilities and services such as snow removal.

Johnson said Lehigh’s increased cost of attendance aligns with nationwide trends and won’t deter future applicants from applying, as long as Lehigh is able to offer need-based and merit-based financial aid.

“We want more money and more gifts to be able to put in the endowment, so we are able to provide this aid,” Johnson said.

As Lehigh becomes more costly and competitive, its “work hard, play hard” reputation persists. However, the university placed ninth on The Princeton Review’s list of party schools for 2018, in comparison to its fourth place position in 2016 and 2017.

Bunnick doesn’t believe this change will have much of an impact on applicants.

“The one part that I can cite easily is that we’ve been on that list in some way, shape or form for some years now,” Bunnick said. “It hasn’t deterred students.”

Hank Portney, ’21, did not consider Lehigh’s party rankings when he applied last year.

Portney is curious to see how rankings and campus expansion might affect the demographics of students who attend Lehigh.

“Given that Lehigh is really pushing with the Path to Prominence, it could be interesting to see if Lehigh is leaning towards more of (an) academically focused school and less of a socially focused school,” Portney said.

While Portney is just beginning his time at Lehigh, Juan Shiraishi, ’18, is enjoying his fourth year in Bethlehem. He said he hasn’t noticed a substantial difference on campus over the years, despite the school’s drop in party rankings.

Before coming to Lehigh in 2014, Shiraishi had little knowledge of the university’s party school reputation.

“I don’t think the impact will be huge,” Shiraishi said. “People who know Lehigh know it’s a really good academic institution across the board.”

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  1. Disgusted Alumnus on

    Here we go again with the same misleading language and irrelevant arguments that appeared a year ago.



    The comical thing about the article from last year accessible in the above link is that it has recently degenerated in the comments section into a lively spat between the commenters as to whether Lehigh is a “top flight school” an “utterly worthless” institution that has strayed from its mission.

    I note that one of the commenters who appears to be using a pseudonym of Michael Mimmers is obviously in the “worthless” camp where he says:

    “. . . Lehigh was great when it pulled professors that TEACH from the top tier (they don’t anymore), had a top flight globally recognized engineering program (not even top 30 program anymore), and had a culture where the building of lifelong networks was encouraged instead of sitting around pounding the liberal mantra of race, gender, and social equality.

    Newsflash: The real world where jobs are acquired, taxes are paid, career networks are built, and capitalism and democracy takes place DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THE NONSENSE BEING TAUGHT AT LIBERAL SILOS RUN BY CAREER ACADEMICS.”

    I note that disgraced James Braxton Peterson is no longer at Lehigh, and Dean Donald Hall will soon be gone. So there is a glimmer of hope that Lehigh may improve a bit.

    Although I’m informed by astute observers who are intimately familiar with the College of Arts and Sciences that it is an irredeemable “lost cause”.

    Recently I heard from some Lehigh alumni that they will NEVER donate to Lehigh’s general fund because of utter nonsense such as:


    They do not want to see their donation monies squandered on such preposterous foolishness.

    • Keep Your Money and Your Comments on

      Degenerated. Glimmer of hope. Squandered. Preposterous. Foolishness.

      Sounds like you paid attention in your silly liberal arts English class taught by a career academic.

  2. Mr. Full Freight on

    Its a 4 year education, not a 4 year social engineering experiment. Invest in great academic students!

    Education at LU is a 4.5 to an 8 depending on the program, tuition is a 9.5, merit aid is pitiful, really, really, pitiful. Admin seems to be more interested in filling up on special groups like first in family to college, or the kid from North Dakota than attracting the best most well rounded academically excellent students. This is a recipe many other schools are following – its great for administrators virtue signalling and getting that job up to the ivy league chain but it doesn’t help the student or academic quality of LU. LU needs to have a great value proposition to attract outstanding students. I needs to get competitive in merit aid. I would rather the LU used funds to attract great students that are star academic performers and not to make sure that there are students from remote states and countries.

    Oh yeah, I am non alumnus parent paying full boat – what the school needs is more of us. Luckily my kid is in a program there that is an 8, but if not, I would have refused to pay $65K and that’s what I tell anyone considering the school – LU is borderline “worth it” for a few programs otherwise there are better value propositions. Such value propositions will effect the quality of students who attend. I believe the school is worth $30K to $35K a year. So if only those on 50% FA accept their admissions offers then tuition will keep going up and the value proposition will keep falling for those with no FA.

    The school frankly has to look for the “dumb rich” to continue feeding this appetite. I have seen a few organizations become dependent on the dumb rich. It is not a good or sustainable situation to be in because there aren’t many of these people.

    Good luck, you only have two semester left from me.

    • Disgusted Alumnus on

      Fortunately there is a way to handle Lehigh’s recent graduates as they move on with their lives:


      Hey Mr. Full Freight, perhaps you might want to consider donating to this “worthy” charity.

      Don’t laugh too hard when you view it. Think of poor Declan and his health issues. Hah!!!

    • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

      Whether you are “dumb rich” or rich and relatively bright, you will feel marginalized by the mediocrity of the student body in every possible way. This is not the place for anyone who is capable of paying sticker-price. I graduated more than 10 years ago and still wish I had transferred. At least back then, it was considered a high ranking school, which is why I was pressured to stay there. I probably could have gone wherever I wanted, even if only on the basis of not needing financial aid. My father, until the day he died, told people with sons and daughters (good families) looking at Lehigh to steer clear.

      • Disgusted Alumnus on

        Sorry to here your father passed away. He was clearly a perceptive man.

        The academy is truly appalling nowadays with all of its useless bureaucrats ensconced in sinecure jobs blathering on about gender pronouns, racist Halloween costumes, diversity, LGBT and gender foolishness, microaggressions, safe spaces, etc.

        The bureaucracy in Student Affairs has over 100 people listed:


        Lehigh would be wise to rid itself of most of them.

        There is a similar bloat in the arm twisting “Development” office to go after donations.

        Again, over 100 useless drones.


        The great Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute puts all of this foolishness into its proper perspective in this video interview that took place at the Claremont Institute a few years ago.

        • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

          Thank you–my dad was a great man in every sense. He also apparently flipped out on the Development Office when they had someone contact him for a major gift and I wish I could have witnessed that.

          This video is brilliant and I plan on reading Heather MacDonald’s articles on related topics.

          I am currently a graduate student through one of the top state systems in the country and, even though this could be considered a less prestigious university, the differences in the quality of the teaching (even in online classes), the intellectual curiosity of my peers, and especially the resources available to me in terms of the library and career services are jaw-dropping.

          • Amy Charles '89 on

            Sure. Now imagine how it’d be if people like your average Lehigh dad paid reasonable taxes in that state, so that it was actually affordable to your average in-state student. You know, the way it used to be, back when middle-income kids weren’t walking out of school with 20-year debt millstones around their necks for bachelor’s degrees. Imagine who else might be able to enjoy those wonderful libraries.

            • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

              Maybe it’s just foolish to spend money you don’t have. As far as I’m concerned, $100K in debt is $100K in debt, whether you’re spending it on your education or on vacations. My sympathy factor is low. I know people who came from extremely modest means–including one guy whose dad was a disabled Vietnam vet and whose mom worked in a school cafeteria–who graduated from a decent private college without owing any money, thanks to working part-time, scholarships, and being in a co-op program for a semester or two. Could have have gotten into a higher-ranked school? Perhaps, but he had an understanding of personal finance. I could give many other examples of bright students from humble beginnings who were able to graduate with debt that wasn’t obscene (or even without any at all)–attending state universities, taking AP classes in high school, getting “gen ed” credits at community colleges, taking advantage of resources such as co-op programs and scholarships, working while in school, etc. There is also no law saying you need to graduate in four years with your bachelors.

              I was blessed that my parents funded my education from K-12 at top private schools, undergrad, and grad school, but I had no idea they would pay for my masters so I enrolled in a school where I could pay as I went just in case. It was a much-appreciated surprise that they wanted to help me with my MSM, and they are delighted to see me excel in a program that I truly enjoy. I am about to finish and am actually disappointed to be at the end of the journey.

              It is a problem that education costs have sky-rocketed in a way that is not commensurate with cost of living, but to dig your own grave in the process is unacceptable. To take out loans for a career where you will be able to pay them off quickly (for example, pharmacy school) is reasonable, but not for a bachelors nowadays especially since it is becoming so that you need a masters to have any sort of value-adding job.

              Are you referring to my dad as an average Lehigh dad? My parents were much more well-off than the vast majority of students at that school. The people who go around ranting about all the “rich kids” at Lehigh have no idea what they are talking about. Upper middle class is not rich. If it was, maybe I wouldn’t have had people from my freshman hall trying to get me to apologize for having more money than them. I have some pretty amazing stories and while maybe it is hard to believe that a child of the 1% had to put up with harassment from such small people, just keep in mind how outnumbered I was.

              I met very few people from my ilk which disappointed my father until the day he died–a place like Lehigh is not for people like us.

          • Embarrassed to Be Associated on

            Just because my dad was smarter and worked harder than your parents doesn’t mean he was responsible for funding your education at a school that has tumbled down the USNews charts. You clearly are typical of the institution.

            That doesn’t mean he was greedy–if you had any sort of real money, maybe you would be protective of it. You will never really understand.

  3. I went to Lehigh. My son will go to Lehigh. I have many friends who go to Lehigh. The university has done well by all of us. It is a GREAT institution that is very competitive. I see nothing wrong with the hip hop performance or anything else that will draw young kids to the college and keep their interest. I always thought that marching bands and orchestras were a waste because not as many students wanted to hear it. Sounds like they are more in touch than ever. I also think diversity in college is the key to correcting imbalance. You can call it social engineering but this is a private college and many of us are behind these efforts (I am Caucasian).

  4. William W Gorman Jr '58 on

    I am a Lehigh graduate and proud of it. When I matriculated the Chemical Engineering Department had just been reconstituted with new professors and my class was the first to use their new book on Unit Operations. It was printed on mimeograph paper sometimes not yet dry. The textbook that evolved is a standard in teaching Unit Ops in many classrooms.

    I had the pleasure of having Lunch with the new Dean of the Engineering School and was impressed in his sincere interest in how the alumni felt about the University and what could be changed for the better.

    I am happy to say that many of my Chemical Engineering classmates are still active alumni and I enjoy seeing them at the reunions.

  5. John G. Lewis '90 on

    I am concerned with the ‘social engineering’ at colleges. It seems that administrators have a fascination for this: a little odd and I’m not sure quite why. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a continuation of the Affirmative Action programs that characterized the 1970s and 80s. This did frankly often prove to be a difficult time for young middle or upper-middle class Caucasians.

    However this may be, it exists, people do benefit, and let us make the best of the situation. I do not quite like, though, how administrators, as well as off campus realtors and landlords, like to milk the wealthier students of their money. I feel the pendulum has swung too far over to ‘the left’, if you would.


    But my greater concern now, everyone, is how all the new construction on campus, especially regarding the University Center, is going to affect the perception of Lehigh… We are said – by individuals that know American campuses – that Lehigh has one of the prettiest schools in the East. Why then the need to re-interpret? Should there not rather be an effort, firstly, to make people aware of us?

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