Oct 26, 2009

First Glimmers of Optimism Among College Applicants

A recent survey of 1,400 high school seniors conducted by Cappex.com suggests the first glimmer of optimism about the economy among students actively planning for college. Conducted in cooperation with MeritAid.com, the study is a follow-up to research completed last October on attitudes toward college and the general affordability of post-secondary education. Only 7% of the students surveyed indicated they are putting college searches on hold because they don’t think their families will be able to pay for college. This is down from 16% a year ago. In addition, fewer students said they are now considering a "less prestigious" college because of affordability issues. “Families are finding ways to adjust and appear to see a recovery in sight,” remarked Chris Long, COO and President of Cappex. “In addition, colleges have continued to work hard to provide merit scholarships and other financial aid.”

Six months ago, optimism among high school students appeared to reach a significant low. In a study conducted by the College Board Art and Science Group, nearly one-third of the students surveyed indicated that their household income had declined, 23% reported that their families had “fallen on hard times,” and one in six revealed that economic circumstances forced them to change college plans. As a result, 41% of the students indicated they were giving more consideration to attending a public institution closer to home. Other cost-saving measures such as living at home and commuting or working part time to help with tuition payments were clearly on the table. These findings mirrored a NACAC study indicating that 71% of high schools reported an increase in the number of students who felt the need to choose more affordable options over their “dream schools.”

While the Cappex study doesn’t suggest a wholesale shift in attitude about college affordability, it may foreshadow growing confidence among students about their ability to find adequate resources to support college ambitions. How this plays out in application numbers and trends for the coming year remains to be seen.

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