More Incoming College Students Are Looking at Price Tags

Cost is becoming an increasingly important factor when teenagers pick colleges.


Some interesting trends are emerging from the bursting of the higher education bubble. According to a UCLA study, high school students are applying to more colleges, and fewer of them are attending their first choice, in part because of price. LA Weekly notes the numbers:

About 57 percent of freshman headed to their first-choice campuses in 2013, the lowest reported percentage since researchers began tracking these things in 1974, the report says.

The proportion of students who said cost was a "very important" factor in their choice was also at a high point of nearly 46 percent, UCLA reported. That's a near-15 percentage point increase in almost 10 years.

Nearly half (almost 49 percent) of the students said financial aid was "very important" in their quest to receive a college degree, a number that also represented a historic high, the report said.

Cost was even more important for first-generation college kids. About 54 percent of them said the price of their education was "very important," UCLA reports.


Kevin Eagan of UCLA's Cooperative Institutional Research Program says the new price consciousness means colleges that can reduce costs will have an edge in the market. Given the importance that students attach to financial aid, I fear there will instead be demands for more subsidies via student assistance, which will keep prices artificially inflated. 

Read the full study here (PDF).