Everyone knows institutions of higher education have been impacted by the economic downturn. Students have been affected too, in the worst case scenarios paying more for their college degrees or facing financial aid shortages. A survey released today further defined just how worried college freshmen are about money, the cost of college, and finding a well-paying job once they graduate.
The annual survey by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California at Los Angeles polled nearly 220,000 first-time, full-time students at 297 four-year institutions. It showed that more students are relying on student loans to fund their educations and looking at schools that offer more financial aid opportunities. But there was also a mental shift. More students are concerned about getting good jobs after graduation, and how they're going to cover college costs in the first place. The survey also showed that fewer freshmen are majoring in business these days, with those numbers at their lowest since the 1970s. The recession could be to blame. Majoring in business may not seem as enticing as it once did as banks face folding or bailouts and the economy has yet to return to prosperous levels.
According to the survey:
- 41.6 percent reported that cost was a "very important" factor in choosing which college to attend.
- those reporting that an offer of financial aid was important in their college choice increased to 44.7 percent, up from 43.0 percent in 2008 and 39.4 percent in 2007.
- 56.5 percent reported they were more likely to place high importance on choosing a college where graduates get good jobs, the highest level since the question was introduced in 1983.
- 53.3 percent reported taking out loans, the highest percentage in nine years.
- 4.5 percent reported having an unemployed father, more than at any other time in the history of the survey. Nearly 8 percent of students also reported that their mothers were unemployed, the highest percentage since 1979.
The respondents to the survey also seemed to have a feeling of social responsibility, perhaps due to not only the recession, but changes in the White House, or more simply, the idea that community service and volunteerism could make them better candidates on the job market:
- 30.8 percent indicated that there was a "very good chance" that they would take part in civic engagement.
- 56.9 percent who volunteered "frequently" as high school seniors indicated that there was a "very good chance" they would do so in college.
It's not a bad thing to worry about how you're going to pay for college. Often, tough decisions need to be made based on the financial aid available to you. Should you stay in-state, rather than pursue a degree at a private institution on the opposite coast? Should you consider community college to save money on those first two years? Finding money for college may seem daunting, but you do have options, whether that's being flexible in the college search or applying for as many scholarship and grant opportunities as you can.
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