Survey: Cost Influences College Choice

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A new study confirms what many admission professionals already know —students are cost-conscious when selecting a college.

Nearly 19 percent of students who turned down the chance to attend their top-choice school in 2016 did so because of the cost of attendance, according to new data from Royall & Company, a firm that assists colleges with enrollment management and fundraising.

“I think enrollment leaders and the public in general have had a suspicion that cost factors were driving a lot of enrollment decisions,” Royall’s Managing Director Peter Farrell told Inside Higher Ed. “This verifies it in an empirical way.”

The company surveyed 54,810 students at 92 public and private institutions. Overall, 11 percent of respondents reported that they had declined an offer to attend their first-choice institution.

Additional findings from the Royall survey support the notion that cost is a crucial component of the college decision-making process. Other reasons cited by respondents for not attending their first-choice institution included: financial aid received from other colleges (9.1 percent), merit-based awards received from other colleges (6.3 percent), and perceptions related to “best value” (5.9 percent).

Looking for more data about the admission process? Check out NACAC’s State of College Admission report.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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