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Top colleges tougher to enter

The nation's top colleges are getting tougher to get into. And more good students are trying to get an education at one of the nation's five military academies, Monitor correspondent Lucia Mouat reports.

According to the newest statistical profile of 246 of the nation's most competitive colleges, published by Peterson's Guides, applications this year shot up 6 percent, while the number of freshmen actually enrolled on campus this fall went up by less than 1 percent.

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"The same students now are applying to a lot more colleges, and it's becoming harder for colleges to decide whom to accept," explains Peter Hegener, Peterson's publisher.

Applications at the nation's military academies, according to the data just analyzed, increased by a whopping 42 percent across the board. Reasons, in Mr. Hegener's view, range from cost -- Washington picks up the tab for tuition, room , and board while the average college costs a student $7,800 a year -- and the likelihood of providing required service time later in peacetime environment.

Meanwhile, this year's national average for college-bound high school students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test did not decline for the first time since 1968. The College Board reports that the average score on the SAT, taken by 1.5 million students in 1981, remained at the 1980 level: 424 on the verbal part of the test and 466 on the math. The top score on each test is 800. The slide in SAT scores -- a total decrease of 90 points on verbal and math since 1963 -- has alarmed educators, parents, and taxpayers, building concern that the nation's schools are failing.

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