The Economy and College Choice

Two-thirds of prospective applicants said the economy had “greatly” or “somewhat” influenced their decision about where to apply to college, according to a recent survey of high-school seniors.

The results of the 2010 College Decision Impact Survey reveal that the recession continues to shape families’ decisions in various ways. A majority of students – particularly those who cited financial concerns – said they were interested in attending a public institution. Yet 38 percent of seniors with grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher expressed an interest in private college, up from 29 percent in 2009.

Compared to last year, students who preferred private colleges were less likely to report that the listed tuition, or “sticker price,” would affect whether they would submit an application (33 percent compared to 42 percent). The finding suggests that more families are thinking carefully about the net cost of attendance as they compare financial-aid packages. More than a third (37 percent) said they had used an net price calculator on a college Web site.

The survey also asked students about how they perceived quality. The most important factor was the variety of courses in fields of interest, followed by the strength and availability of academic facilities, the percentage of graduates employed after graduation, and graduation rates.

Conducted in March, the survey included responses from more than 800 students. It was sponsored by Maguire Associates, a consulting firm, and, a scholarship-search Web site. More information about the survey is available here.


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