Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Study Reveals How the Economic Downturn Is Affecting College Choice

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Study Reveals How the Economic Downturn Is Affecting College Choice

Article excerpt

Some students choose a college based on academics, career aspirations, the institution's reputation, quality of faculty, location, student body and athletic facilities. But the 2010 College Decision Impact Survey financed by Fast Web, a scholarship-matching engine owned by Monster Worldwide and Maguire Associates, an education consulting firm based in Concord, Mass., reveals that money is an increasingly important factor impacting college choice. Indeed, two-thirds of the 800 students surveyed online, about a third of whom are minority, said that family economics influenced their college selection.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org and author of a book due out this fall, Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, says that economic factors are playing an increasingly prominent role in determining which college students attend. "If they can't afford the school, they won't go - no matter how good the school is," he stated.

Because many Latino students are the first-generation in their family to apply to college, their parents can't offer much help with completing complicated financial aid fonns and college applications, explained Alejandra Rincón, vice president of programs at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) based in San Francisco. Calif. Indwd many Utino students are surprised to Ieam that they can apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), compete for grants and scholarships and don't have to take out loans to finance their entire college education.

When affordability impacts college choice, graduation rates decline, Kantrowtz said. More students are gravitating to community colleges because they're less expensive than four-year colleges. Students who begin higher education in community college earn a bachelor's degree at a rate 14.5 percent less than students who begin in four-year colleges. American higher education "is moving in the wrong direction. We should be increasing the number of bachelor's degrees, not decreasing them," he said.

Because community colleges are cost effective and money is playing a greater role, Rincón noted that about two-thirds of Latinos begin higher education at junior colleges. Though most two-year colleges offer remedial education, liberal arts courses and increasingly specialized and technical programs, Rincón said that most students who start there fail to earn an associate degree or a bachelor's degree. She urges students to make sure to take credit-bearing classes that will transfer to a four-year college.

Despite the economic recession, most students have not opted to take a year or two off, save money and then attend college, the survey noted. Both Kantrowitz and Rincón say that starting college immediately is the best route to take. "Data show that students who delay don't return to college. They start earning money and think they don't have to earn an associate degree. They don't think long-term," explained Rincón. Kantrowitz adds that students who take a year off get out of the habit of studying and can lose their academic drive.

Moreover, lower-income and minority students are opting in greater numbers to attend state colleges to trim costs. The survey revealed that 71 percent of Latino students were pursuing state colleges, and 62 percent of Caucasians.

But state college fees are rising. Kantrowitz warns that many state colleges, which have been a major destination for many minorities, are increasing tuition and other fees due to state budgetary woes. Tuition is rising at double-digit increases, including state colleges in California, where tuition will spike 32 percent; Florida, 15 percent; and Arizona, about 10 percent. In a recession, state income tax revenue decreases, higher education budgets are cut, and the only discretionary item IeIi is raising tuition.

Even before the financial crisis, many Latino students were living at home and attending college in proximity to where they reside. Rincón notes that frequently private colleges located far from home are the schools that offer the most scholarships and financial aid, which can make college more affordable than staying close to home. …

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