by Chris Williams
Over 70 percent of students in the 2009 freshman college class may be looking at big changes in their education plans due to economic pressures.
A nationwide study was released today by Longmire & Co., Inc, an educational consulting firm. Nearly half of the families participating in the study say they will definitely modify their children’s college plans, and another 26 percent are in a state of flux because of the uncertainty surrounding the economy.
Adding to their anxiety is an overall frustration in understanding the complexities of the financial aid system, the study showed. More than 22 public and private institutions from across the country participated in the Economic Impact on College Enrollment study.
Both large and small colleges were represented, and only families of students already expressing an interest in college attendance were surveyed. In total, the students represented all 50 states and a wide range of socio-economic classes.
Only 28 percent of the participants said their college plans had not been influenced by the current economic situation. Conversely, 46 percent said their plans are being modified, ranging from “somewhat” to “drastically.” The remaining 26 percent expressed uncertainty as to the impact of the economy on their college plans.
Topping the list of likely changes facing this year’s freshman class: attending a less expensive college; a heavier reliance on financial aid; attending an in-state institution or one that is closer to home; working while attending school; and living at home.
Borrowing more heavily to finance their child’s higher education is a viable option cited by 38 percent of respondents. With 24 percent of respondents, consideration is being given to switching from enrolling in the private school that topped their list to enrolling in a lower-cost public university.
Another 11 percent are considering enrolling in a community college where prices are generally much lower instead of the 4-year institution originally on their radar screen.
“What we are seeing is a great deal of anxiety and confusion on the part of parents as they try to navigate today’s economic uncertainty,” said Longmire.
“The good news for colleges, and for students, is that the study points out some specific actions colleges can take that will help make higher education a reality for many students.”
Specifically, the study shed light on one of the areas of most concern to parents: the lack of understanding they have on available financial aid.
Some schools will actually fare better in these difficult times, Longmire predicted.
“Colleges that provide the highest level of customer service out of their financial aid and admissions offices stand the best chance of enrolling the highest percentage of students they’ve admitted,” he said. “In this period of economic uncertainty and stress, families are simply demanding an unprecedented level of advice and counsel on financing a college education.”