How the Recession Is Changing Students' College Plans

A survey shows that majority of graduating seniors are considering attending a less expensive college.

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A recent survey found that the recession is forcing more than 70 percent of prospective college students to alter their plans for the upcoming school year, sometimes in drastic ways. When asked how their college plans might change, 53 percent of students said they are considering attending a less expensive college, and 47 percent said they are planning to work as freshmen. Many incoming freshmen are also likely to rely more heavily on financial aid counseling (43 percent) and to borrow more heavily (38 percent).

Thesurvey, which drew responses from 1,030 households representing a wide range of incomes in all 50 states, reveals the heightened anxiety of the 2009 freshman class. Only 28 percent of the respondents said the recession has no influence on their college enrollment plans. Longmire & Co., the educational consulting firm that conducted the survey, says there is also a great deal of parental confusion about financial aid. Only 17 percent of surveyed parents said that they are "extremely familiar" with aid available to them.

While cost has not become the "overriding factor" in choosing a college, 16 percent of families in the study said it will most likely dictate their decision this year, compared with past years' average of 12 percent. New England has the largest proportion of students (64 percent) who are considering attending a less expensive college; the West has the largest share of students (14 percent) who said they will probably forgo attending a four-year college and instead enroll in a community college, where tuition is typically lower.

Nationwide, 24 percent of surveyed students who were considering enrolling in a private college say they are now likely to attend a public one. They also plan to save money by attending a college that's close to home (38 percent) or by living at home while attending college (21 percent). The margin of error in the survey is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

For more information, check out U.S. News stories offering expert advice and other tips on paying for college.

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