Survey reveals university costs repel students from first choice

NORMAL, Ill. (U-WIRE) – An annual national survey conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles reveals smaller percentages of college freshmen are attending their first choice schools, and even those accepted to their first choice are instead settling for their second or third choices.

The survey that yielded these results is The Freshman Survey, which has been administered by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA for the last 40 years.

This year 271,441 freshmen at 393 colleges across the nation were involved in the survey. While students were asked a variety of questions about high school life and college decisions, a major point of interest revealed by the survey results dealt with deciding factors that determine what school a student chooses to attend.

John H. Pryor, director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program and survey’s lead author, said that the survey found that 67.3 percent of students polled were attending their first choice school, which is the second lowest percentage since researchers included this question on the survey in the mid-1970s.

The survey also found that, among those students attending their second choice schools, 48.9 percent had been accepted by their first choice school, but decided not to attend.

According to Pryor, a significant reason for the decline in attendance of first choice schools is the cost.

“What the results of the survey seem to be telling us is that financial issues is the main reason that students accepted to their first choice schools choose not to attend,” Pryor said.

Charles A. Boudreau, director of Financial Aid, said students and parents not being entirely well informed about the full cost of their university or college of choice may be a contributing factor to this troublesome issue of finances.

“I try and emphasize to parents to go to the school’s Web site early on and do research on overall cost, financial aid eligibility and scholarship opportunities.”

“Then you can assess if the price of the school is workable for your family financially,” Boudreau said.

Molly Arnold, director of Admissions, said that ISU probably loses students interested in coming here to other schools because of the extensive endowments that many smaller private schools have to entice students that are meeting their university needs.

However, she also noted that because of ISU’s quality and affordability, it is a great package deal for students looking for the type of learning environment ISU provides.

“If we benefit from students coming here because we were more affordable than their first choice, I’m okay with that as long as the student who attends is comfortable with their decision to come to ISU.”

“I really want our students to be happy with their decision, because if they’re happy then they do well, and if they do well and enjoy themselves then they will tell others about their great experience at ISU, and there’s a positive trickle down effect,” Arnold said.