Getting accepted to the school of your choice is one thing, paying for it another.
Mr. Shaouni, a recent high school graduate from Troy, Mich., was forced to forfeit his dream school — DePaul University in Chicago.
“It was either be $120,000 in debt after college or make a very hard decision. So, I chose Michigan State University. Obviously, MSU is a very respectable school, but to them, I am just a number,” said Mr. Shaouni.
“There has been a big difference in where my friends applied compared to last year’s seniors. … This year, most of my friends are going to Oakland Community College and Oakland University. … Staying home seems like the only option because you can save some money and continue your part-time job if you have one,” Mr. Shaouni said.
Financial instability has forced many high school seniors like Mr. Shaouni to reconsider the next four years of their lives when pursuing a college degree. As a result, both public and private universities across the country have seen dramatic decreases in application numbers when compared with those of previous years.
A survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) said that 45 percent of respondents reported a decrease in their 2009 May 1 yield rates compared with 2008. It said 32 percent of public colleges and 50 percent of private colleges reported a decrease.
The yield rate, as calculated by the survey, represents the number of students who confirm enrollment with a deposit by the May 1 deadline divided by the total number of students accepted to the university during the regular enrollment period.
But even for those students who applied to and were accepted by their dream schools, many are still faced with the economic reality that their families just don’t have enough money to pay the university’s tuition.
John Boshoven, a member of the NACAC board of directors, explains this survey in terms of his experience as a counselor for continuing education for the Community High School in the Ann Arbor public school system in Michigan.
“With public institutions, the yield was higher because kids locked in to what they perceived as a lower-priced tuition — to save money and be closer to home, which in some cases meant living at home,” Mr. Boshoven said.
For some students who were accepted to their first- or second-choice schools, which may have been private universities more expensive than the in-state alternative, turning down their dream school seemed to be the only option in order to afford a university education.
Proma Khos of Troy, Mich., was forced to turn down Boston University — a private institution — to attend the University of Michigan. “I think there is no way to fully justify the discrepancy between in-state and out-of-state tuition,” he said.
“In state, my family can afford a few years of university for me without trouble. If I were to go out of state, we’d be struggling to come up with the tuition for a year or two of school. It feels like students are being punished for wanting to broaden their horizons and explore new places.”
Claire Cafaro, president of the New Jersey NACAC, saw similar trends among high school students in her state. “What seems to be the case with this year’s high school graduates and the students who will be entering their senior year of high school, more than ever the final cost of college is a consideration in the application process,” she said.
Tish Peterson, director of college counseling at the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, also understands the struggle to afford a college education. “In the college application process this year [at Holton], many families did encourage their daughters to place more reasonably priced public universities on their college lists as a precautionary measure,” she said.
Based on her communications with public universities during the college application process, she said, “as one might expect in a less predictable economic climate, public universities felt more pressure on admissions.”
“The College of Charleston [S.C.] was up 13 percent in applications; University of Virginia saw an increase of approximately 3,000 candidates; University of Texas-Austin attracted 1,800 more than last year for a total of 31,000; applications at University of Vermont shot up by 12 percent over last year,” she said.
The University of Virginia, in addition to seeing an influx of applications from in-state residents, has partnered with Northern Virginia Community College to launch the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program, which will allow students to take classes at a community college campus and transfer the credits in order to receive a degree from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at the University of Virginia.
With financial considerations in mind, an in-state Northern Virginia Community College student could expect to pay $3,298 for nine or more credit hours of classes, while an in-state undergraduate student at the University of Virginia would pay a yearly tuition of $9,300.
Students are being forced to consider the setbacks that can result from struggling to pay for a college education. Instead of facing extensive debt after graduation, many students are challenged to consider a less expensive alternative to a private university farther from home.