Affordability Tops Annual ‘Hopes and Worries’ Survey of Applicants

Concerns about paying for college reached an all-time high among respondents to a survey released by Princeton Review Inc. on Tuesday, but 100 percent of them said a college degree would be “worth it.”

In the 2014 “College Hopes and Worries Survey,” 89 percent of respondents reported that financial aid would be “very necessary” to pay college expenses. Among those respondents, 65 percent said it would be “extremely necessary.”

Additionally, respondents’ “biggest worry” changed from previous years’ surveys, to reflect increasing concerns about paying for college. This year, when asked to identify a chief concern, 35 percent of respondents marked “level of debt to pay for the degree” and 34 percent chose “will get into first-choice college, but won’t have enough sufficient funds/aid to attend.” In 2009 the most popular response was “won’t get into first-choice college.”

Those sentiments echoed findings of the recent Freshman Survey, released this month by the University of California at Los Angeles. Data from the UCLA survey showed that the cost of college and the availability of financial aid were increasingly influencing students’ enrollment decisions. The largest percentage of students on record did not attend their first-choice college for financial reasons, the UCLA survey found, and among students who enrolled elsewhere, 60 percent indicated that their current college’s financial-aid offer was “very important” to their decision, and 25 percent dismissed their top choice due to a lack of financial aid.

Despite their concerns about cost, all respondents to the Princeton Review survey said a college diploma would be “worth it.” Fifty-one percent reported a “potentially better job/higher income” was the principal benefit of earning a college degree, 24 percent said “education,” and 25 percent marked “exposure to new ideas.”

Of the 14,150 participants, 71 percent were teenagers applying to college, and 29 percent were parents of applicants. The survey has been conducted annually since 2003. Princeton Review, a company that offers test-preparation services, tutoring, and admissions resources, solicited survey respondents through its annual Best Colleges guidebook, where the survey is located in print, and by way of its website.

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