Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Students Selecting a College Increasingly Consider Long-Term Job Prospects, Debt

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Students Selecting a College Increasingly Consider Long-Term Job Prospects, Debt

Article excerpt

It had to come to this.

For years, high school seniors hoping to go to college in the fall fixated on getting into their dream college. But that has changed. Students still are thinking about their campus visits and hoping to immerse themselves in a college culture that seems to best fit who they are. But in an era marked by job insecurity and student loan worries, concerns about keeping debt down and finding a decent job after graduation have turned the longing for the dream school into a secondary issue.

Since 2003, the Princeton Review has surveyed college applicants and their parents about the stress associated with the admission process and getting financial offers from colleges.

In 2003, with jobs plentiful and few people asking "Is college worth it?" only 56 percent of students and their parents said their stress was high. This year, 76 percent said they were worried about the financial aspects of college.

About 98 percent said this year that financial aid will be necessary to pay for college. Some 65 percent deemed aid as "extremely necessary."

Both students and their parents are focused on what happens after the college years. In a departure from the pre-recession period, 42 percent said this year that the main benefit of college is to get a better job and income. Much to the disappointment of educators, who want to tout the value of education for its own sake, fewer families think they can afford college for its intrinsic value alone. Only 33 percent say the main benefit of college is "exposure to new ideas" and 26 percent ranked "education" as the main objective.

With the cost of tuition, housing, food and other college expenses now totaling about $25,000 for one year at an in-state public universities and $50,000 a year for private colleges, the preoccupation with outcomes doesn't seem unrealistic for students who don't want to move into parents' basements after college graduation.

The job picture for recent college graduates has improved since the Great Recession, but it's still not reliable.

Only 46 percent of the students who were about to graduate in 2016 with bachelor's degrees had a job offer, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which does a survey of graduates each year. That's an improvement over 2009, when only 41 percent had offers , but it's far below the 80 percent who were graduating with jobs before the recession, said association researcher Kenneth Tsang.

In addition, pay levels have been stuck. Although college costs have been rising faster than inflation and the average college student with loans leaves college with about $30,000 in debt, the survey has found that salaries aren't budging. …

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