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More proof that the economics of higher education must change

Annual survey reports a growing number of students are choosing schools based on cost

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Two-thirds of incoming freshmen said their choice of which college to attend was significantly affected by current economic conditions.

Continuing a recent trend, more incoming freshmen at four-year colleges said money was a key factor in their choice of school—and the percentage of students who said their main reason for attending college was career-focused reached an all-time high.

These are the primary takeaways from an annual survey released Jan. 24, and they lend further support to the idea that the economics of higher education must change as colleges compete for students.

Each year since 1966, UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute has conducted a massive survey of incoming freshmen at four-year colleges, asking questions about their motivations, their plans, and their political views. Typically, big shifts are only apparent over long time periods. But sometimes economic and political currents can lead new college students to give responses noticeably different from what their predecessors said.

This year’s survey is based on the responses of 192,912 first-time, full-time students at 283 four-year colleges. The responses are statistically weighted to reflect the broader population of such students—approximately 1.5 million at 1,613 institutions nationally.

Here are some key findings:

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