College Applicants Increasingly Pick Affordable Option Over 'Dream School,' Survey Finds

June 09, 2009

Seventy-one percent of high-school guidance counselors this year saw an increase in the number of their students who chose a more-affordable option over their “dream school,” according to a survey released today.

The survey of high-school counselors was released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, along with a companion survey of college admissions offices.

The survey of high schools also found that nearly 60 percent of counselors saw an increase in the number of students planning to enroll in public institutions over private ones, and 37 percent saw an increase in students who plan to attend two-year colleges over four-year institutions. Fifteen percent of counselors reported an increase in students planning to delay enrolling in college for financial reasons.

The survey of colleges found that 46 percent of institutions accepted more applicants this year than last. Forty-five percent of respondents reported a drop in their May 1 yield, the proportion of accepted students who send in deposits by that date. Thirty-two percent of public institutions reported a decrease, compared with 50 percent of private institutions.

The surveys found that about 30 percent of high-school counseling departments and about 35 percent of college admissions offices had their budgets cut in the 2008-9 academic year.

The surveys are the latest effort to shed light on what has been a complicated year for college admissions.

Six hundred and fifty-eight high schools responded to the survey. Private high schools were overrepresented in the sample, according to the association, but enough public schools responded to allow for comparison by control. Four hundred and two colleges responded to the survey. —Beckie Supiano