College Savings Foundation: High School Students on Quest for College Are Educated Consumers

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High School Students' Career plans drive school choice; more than half plan to live at home

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“This generation of high school students seems to view higher education with the purpose and discerning eye of a knowledgeable consumer." -- Mary Morris, Chair of CSF

High school students across the country are seeking higher education choices that are more affordable and targeted to their career needs and earning potential. A full two-thirds – 66% --say that their future career plans will affect their school choice, up from 55% last year, according to just-released findings of the College Savings Foundation’s 2016 survey of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Costs are looming large in many students’ plans: 78% said they were a factor in which college to attend; and 62% said that they have been a factor in deciding whether or not to attend college at all. 53% plan to live at home while attending college.

“This generation of high school students seems to view higher education with the purpose and discerning eye of a knowledgeable consumer,” said Mary Morris, Chair of CSF, which conducted the 2016 How Youth Plan to Fund College survey, the nonprofit’s the seventh annual.

Overall, students are considering affordable higher education options – and their mindsets are changing dramatically about options such as vocational schools:

  • More than half (54%) are choosing public college, up from 50% last year; and 20% are opting for community college.
  • Nearly half (49%) now think of vocational and career schools in the same way that they think about public or private college – up from 42% last year and up from 21% in 2014.

61% of students said that the cost of in-state versus an out-of-state school affected their decision on where to attend college. Other factors affecting their decisions were:

  • 45% want to be closer to home; 19% wanted to be farther away from home.
  • 27% said the career prospects in the local area after graduation.
  • 27% said needing a car to get around school; and 14% said not needing a car.
  • 17% said internship prospects.

Pragmatic Trade-offs

High schoolers seemed to be making purposeful choices on what they had to do to save or pay for higher education.

  • Nearly half – 48% -- are willing to forgo things, such as electronics, cars and clothing, to save for college, up from 40% last year.
  • 70% would rather receive money for education than tangible gifts.
  • 37% of students said they had to change their education choice because of costs. Of those, 65% are choosing community college, 21% are choosing vocational/career school, and 3% are working instead of school.

Expenses are Topics of Conversation with Parents

The lines of communications between students and their parents appeared to be open, with topics including the following (allowing multiple choice answers):

  • 73% on what career path the student wants to follow.
  • 69% on what type of school they want to attend.
  • 65% on how college will be paid for.
  • 38% on whether the student will need a car.
  • 30% on if the student wants to go to graduate school.
  • 32% on the extent to which the student will be expected to contribute to the cost.

Students said that their parents covering tuition and/or room and board have certain restrictions, such as having a certain GPA (40%); attending a public university (35%); attending a community college (34%); the need for the school to be close to home (29%), and an alma mater of a family member (11%).

Other Paths Chosen

In another interesting finding, much like President Obama’s daughter Malia, 20% are taking a gap year, up slightly from 17% last year.

Students who are choosing not to go to college had reasons including their career choice doesn’t require a college degree; they have seen highly successful individuals without a college degree; they believe a college degree doesn’t give the critical skills they need; they are joining a family business, or they are joining the military.

Long Term Education Plans

In the long term, 87% of students plan additional study: 42% have plans for graduate school; 16% for medical school; 8% for law school, and 21% for lifetime learning.

College Savings Foundation’s seventh annual How Youth Plan to Fund College survey was conducted by Survey Monkey with parental permission.

For Charts and Graphs see:

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