Students now choosing colleges based on price

January 13, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

White-collar workers aren't the only ones feeling the brunt of the national economic downturn.

Throughout the country, the recession is forcing more cash-strapped college students to work while attending school and to choose a college on the basis of economic rather than educational factors.

Those are among the findings in a recent survey of 210,739 college freshmen at 431 schools around the country. The survey, to be released today, is conducted annually by the American Council on Education and the University of California-Los Angeles.

"Taken together, these figures suggest that neither financial aid nor personal or family resources are keeping pace with the costs of attending college," said Eric L. Dey, a UCLA researcher.

The survey found that the percentage of students who selected a college on the basis of low tuition had jumped from 23 percent in fall 1990 to almost 28 percent last fall.

The number who chose a college on the basis of how much financial aid it offered also rose, from 25 percent in 1990 to almost 28 percent last fall.

More than 7 percent of those surveyed said they went to college because they were unable to find a job.

Nearly 38 percent said there was "a very good chance" they would have to get a job to help pay for college expenses, and 5 percent said they expected to work full time during college.

Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed reported that making money was a "very important" reason for their decision to attend college.

That figure was the highest since 1971, when the question was first asked on the survey.

As the nation gears up for a presidential campaign, conservative candidates can expect less support among college students, survey findings seem to indicate.

For the second straight year, the percentage of freshmen who characterize themselves as politically liberal or "far left" increased, from 24 percent in 1989 to 26 percent last fall. The number of "conservative" or "far right" students continued to decline, from 23 percent to 20 percent over the same period.

While business remained the most popular career choice of freshmen, interest is waning.

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