Paul links below to this great Review article by Danny Crichton on admissions, but the selected quote seems to be implying that economic considerations led to the lower number of total admits this year.
The campus is looking to cut costs, but I’m pretty sure they actually reduced the number of admits because unexpectedly high yield rates (the number of admitted students who said yes) created higher than expected entering classes the past two years. Crichton does not imply otherwise:
While this number returns the freshman class to its historical size, it is far fewer than the entering classes of the past two years (1722 in 2007 and 1703 last year)
For an explanation from the source, here’s how Director of Admissions Shawn Abbot put it in December:
“Because more students have accepted Stanford’s offer of admission at unprecedented rates in the last two years, we need to be considerably more conservative with our admission decisions this year,” the director said.
Given that these giant classs strained the crap out of Stanford housing (causing, among other things me to live in a converted basement rec room), I don’t think there’s too much to be concerned about. A campus housing system that isn’t so overbooked it’s paying extra to put people in Oak Creek apartments will be an automatic budget cut itself.
If the endowment difficulties continue, future years could see either further increases in tuition, cuts in financial aid, or reduced total enrollment, but that wasn’t the motivating factor this year. It will be interesting to see if the yield rate this year is above or below last year’s of 70.9%.