New Study Details Impact of Economic Crisis on College Enrollment: Report Drives Colleges to Ramp Up Services
Kansas City, MO, April 22, 2009 — Over 70% of students in the 2009 freshman college class may be looking at big changes in their education plans due to economic pressures, according to a nationwide study released today by Longmire & Co., Inc, an educational consulting firm. Nearly half of the families participating in the study say they will definitely modify their children's college plans and another 26% are in a state of flux because of the uncertainty surrounding the economy. Adding to their anxiety is an overall frustration in understanding the complexities of the financial aid system, the study showed.
More than 22 public and private institutions from across the country participated in the Economic Impact on College Enrollment study. Both large and small colleges were represented and only families of students already expressing an interest in college attendance were surveyed. In total, the students represented all 50 states and a wide range of socio-economic classes.
Only 28% of the participants could answer that their college plans had not been influenced by the current economic situation. Conversely, 46% said that their plans are being modified; ranging from “somewhat” to “drastically.” The remaining 26% expressed uncertainty as to the impact of the economy on their college plans.
“We have been surveying prospective students for over 20 years and have never seen such dramatic shifts in thinking,” said Robert Longmire, president of Longmire & Co., Inc. “Higher education institutions will need to retool their recruitment and financial aid departments if they are to remain competitive in this environment.”
Topping the list of likely changes facing this year’s freshman class: attending a less expensive college; a heavier reliance on financial aid; attending an in-state institution or one that is closer to home; working while attending school; living at home. Borrowing more heavily to finance their child’s higher education is a viable option cited by 38% of respondents. With 24% of respondents, consideration is being given to switch from the private school that topped their list to enrolling in a lesser-cost public university. Another 11% are considering enrolling in a community college where prices are generally much lower instead of the 4-year institution originally on their radar screen.
“What we are seeing is a great deal of anxiety and confusion on the part of parents as they try to navigate today’s economic uncertainty,” describes Longmire. “The good news for colleges, and for students, is that the study points out some specific actions colleges can take that will help make higher education a reality for many students.”
Specifically, the study shed a light on one of the areas of most concern to parents as the lack of understanding they have on available financial aid. As the parent of one respondent describe it as “…a labyrinth or maze without any end. We have filled out forms, gone online, even talked to the counselors at school but I still don’t have a clear understanding of what, if anything, my child might qualify for.”
Some schools will actually fare better in these difficult times, Longmire predicts. “Colleges that provide the highest level of customer service out of their financial aid and admissions offices stand the best chance of enrolling the highest percentage of students they’ve admitted,” he noted. “In this period of economic uncertainty and stress, families are simply demanding an unprecedented level of advice and counsel on financing a college education."
In many instances, researchers encountered families with heart-rending tales of depleted savings, job loss and extreme anxiety. As one concerned parent participant said, “Please, please share this information with our nation’s leaders so they know how hard it is for families with college-aged kids. We lost half our retirement and most of our education fund. My daughter has worked so hard for this goal. What are we to do?”
Longmire & Co, Inc. is a leader in the field of enrollment management with a 22 year history of marketing, research and consulting in the college marketplace. Having worked with over 200 public and private four year institutions throughout the United States, Longmire & Co., Inc. provides enrollment managers with the tools and information they need to grow and control enrollment, as well as retain the students they have.
An Executive Summary of the study (including regional breakouts) may be obtained at: http://longmire-co.com/education/EconomicImpactCollegeReport.pdf