Report: Students Confused About College Costs

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Most high school students and their parents are unaware of the actual cost of college, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics. And when they do hazard a guess as to how much it will take to enroll, they often overestimate the price of higher education.

“There may be serious consequences to being uninformed and unsure about college costs and financial aid,” according to the report. “For example, uncertainty about college costs and the availability of financial aid has been associated with underenrollment among low-income and minority students.”

The study looked at students’ perceptions of tuition and fees at a public, four-year college in their state. The findings suggest teens need earlier and better information related to college costs.

For example, as ninth graders, only 11 percent of the students surveyed were able to accurately ballpark what it would cost to attend one year of college at an in-state institution, and around a quarter of students believed college was not affordable.

By the time those same students were in 11th grade, one-third thought college was unaffordable — an increase that corresponded to changes in their plans for life after high school.

“The percentage of students planning to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program declined from 51 percent to 45 percent over this time, and the percentage of students who planned to enroll in programs below the bachelor’s degree level increased from 15 percent to 23 percent.”

Read the full study and share NACAC’s financial aid brochure with the students you serve.

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

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