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New Survey Finds Recession is Affecting High School Seniors’ Postsecondary Enrollment Decisions

May 21, 2009

A new survey commissioned by the College Board has found that the current economic recession is affecting the postsecondary plans of current high school seniors. The survey report, based on a student poll conducted by Art & Science group, reveals that about two-thirds of high school seniors believe the recession has had a “direct impact” on them and their families. Nearly one-third of respondents indicated that their parents’ income had declined, 23 percent reported that their family had fallen on hard times, and 17 percent said that the current economic circumstances have forced them to change their college plans. These results vary by income, as 38 percent of lower-income students said their families had fallen on hard times, compared with 26 percent of those from middle-income families and 11 percent of those from higher-income families. Similarly, African American students were more likely than whites to report economic difficulties.

Despite these hard times, few respondents have given up their dreams of attending postsecondary education. However, the types of institutions they plan to attend, and the ways they plan to pay for college, have shifted. About 41 percent of high school seniors are now giving much more consideration to attending a public university or college close to home, and 15 percent are giving much more consideration to community college or other two-year schools. Fifty-three percent of respondents indicated that they had ruled out attending a specific college on the basis of cost alone.

In a statement accompanying the report, the authors write that the findings “are yet another ominous warning to higher education that the class divide in our colleges and universities, which has been steadily widening for the past several decades, will be pushed even further apart by the recession.”

This student poll is based on a sample of 971 respondents from a random national sample of 63,200 high school seniors who registered and/or took the SAT in 2009. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.3 percent. A full copy of the study can be found here.

NACUBO staff resource is Santiago Merea