Cost Increasing Factor in Students’ College Choice

By Caralee J. Adams — January 25, 2013 2 min read
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Money matters more than ever to students. It’s increasingly affecting their college choices and is one of the main reasons they are pursuing a degree.

“The American Freshman: National Norms,” an annual survey and report published by UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program released Jan. 24 gives a snapshot of the attitudes of first-time, full-time college students across the country.

It found that more students in 2012 believe that the current economic situation significantly affected their college choice (66 percent) compared to 62.1 percent in 2010 when the survey first posed the question. Considering the most important reasons for choosing a college, this year 43.3 percent of freshmen cited “cost of attending” compared to 40.6 percent in the 2011 survey. In 2004, just 31 percent of freshmen thought cost was “very important.”

Students who say they are going to college in order to get a better job rose to 87.9 percent from 85.9 percent in 2011 and much higher than its low of 67.8 percent in 1976. Also, 74 percent of freshman in the new survey, compared to 71.7 percent last year, said the reason for going to college was “to be able to make more money” — an all-time high. To be “very well off financially” is a personal goal of 81 percent of incoming students in the new report, up from 79.6 percent in 2011.

The survey found this year that fewer students who got into their first-choice ended up enrolling than last. While 76.7 percent of students were accepted to their first-choice institutions, just 59.3 percent ended up enrolling there. This is big change compared to 1970s and 1980s, when nearly three out of four students were attending their first-choice schools.

Looking back at their senior year in high school, the freshmen surveyed indicated a higher level of stress than in past years. Some 30.4 percent said they frequently felt “overwhelmed by all I had to do” during their senior year of high school, up from 28.5 percent in 2011. While 40.5 percent of women said they felt frequently overwhelmed, just 18.6 percent of incoming men felt the same.

Freshman who acknowledged feeling under stress did say they would likely get tutoring or communicate regularly with their professor, while those who did not feel as pressured were not as likely to seek out help.

“Taken together, these findings underscore the need for colleges to attend to signs of being overwhelmed in first-year students and to promote activities that not only support health and wellness, but also highlight important opportunities to build students’ self-efficacy related to academics and social life,” the report said.

The results of The American Freshman are based upon data from 192,912 first-time, full-time
students entering 283 four-year colleges and universities of varying levels of selectivity and
type in the country, statistically weighted to reflect the 1.5 million freshmen entering 1,613 schools in 2012.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.