Fewer and Fewer Students Are Attending Their Top-Choice Colleges

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 6 2014 6:11 PM

Proportion of Students Attending Their First-Choice College Hits 39-year Low

53096727-students-celebrate-at-the-commencement-ceremony-at-uclas
Students celebrate at the commencement ceremony at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The proportion of college freshmen attending their first choice school is the lowest it’s been in 39 years, or since the data has been collected, according to a new survey from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. While 76 percent of students say they are admitted to their top choice four-year institution, only 57 percent are enrolled there. That’s compared with 69 percent of students who enrolled at their top choice in 2003 and 72 percent in 1993.

Unsurprisingly, economic factors are a significant consideration in enrollment choice – and an ever-increasing one. The share of students who cite financial aid as very important rose to 49 percent in 2013, up from 33 percent in 1993 and just 19 percent in 1973. Similarly, cost of attendance is gaining in importance as well, with 46 percent of students identifying it as very important, compared to 31 percent in 2004.

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"Students are becoming savvier shoppers," Kevin Eagan, interim director of the research program told The Chronicle of Higher Education. They are looking for "the best deal."

That may be so, but the rising cost of college is also likely to blame as is the follow on burden of student debt. The two are particularly top of mind for first generation college goers, according to the report, which calls on higher education institutions to "continue their efforts to simultaneously constrain costs and craft financial-aid packages that adequately address students’ financial needs."

Read more takeaways from the report over at The Chronicle.

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