98% of College Applicants Need Financial Aid to Fund Their Education

March 23, 2021

The following is from ValuePenguin

College admissions season, which typically lasts from March to April each year, is a stressful time for high school seniors and their parents. This year, however, it seems like getting into their first-choice school isn’t their biggest worry — it’s whether or not they can afford it.

The Princeton Review, an education and college admissions services company headquartered in New York City, asked over 14,000 college applicants and their parents about their college admissions and financial aid challenges. The results showed that 98% of respondents would need some sort of financial assistance — whether grants, scholarships or loans — to pay for college. Over 8 in 10 (82%) students and parents stated that this financial help would be "extremely" or "very" necessary.

Student loan debt worth the risks for applicants, parents

In recent years, paying for college has become no easy feat for many families. The Princeton Review discovered that 63% of survey participants estimated that they’d pay over $75,000 for college. Of that group, 37% believed the actual cost would climb over $100,000.

With anticipated costs this high, the survey found that the biggest worry among respondents was the "level of debt to pay for the degree," cited by 41%. The next biggest concern, shared by 28% of students and parents, was the possibility that applicants would "get into [their] first-choice college, but won’t be able to afford to attend."

An earlier survey by educational nonprofit ECMC Group found that this concern is prevalent among high school students in general, with 50% relaying fears about "graduating [from college] with a high amount of debt." The pandemic has further compounded these concerns, with a study by College Ave Student Loans finding that 45% of parents with students in college now have to borrow more in student loans as college becomes even harder to afford.

Still, an overwhelming number of people believe the value of a higher education outweighs the financial risks. Almost all of the respondents (99%) in the Princeton Review’s survey said they believe that college will be "worth it." Another 43% said they thought it would help secure a "potentially better job and higher income" for their students.

COVID-19 pandemic affecting college applications and decisions

The Princeton Review also revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the college application and decision-making process. In fact, over a third of respondents (33%) said the pandemic has shaped their perspective "a lot," while another 30% said it has had "somewhat" of an effect.

A large part of the college experience for many undergraduates is the ability to get to know their professors, meet other people and enjoy a new sense of independence. Correspondingly, the biggest pandemic-related concern shared by 48% of respondents was the potential impact that remote learning would have on students’ grades and extracurriculars.

Survey participants also shared that the health crisis has influenced which colleges they decided to apply to, with:

  • 54% applying to "colleges with lower sticker prices"
  • 32% applying to "colleges closer to home"
  • 7% applying to "schools with smaller student bodies or in less densely populated areas"
  • 7% applying to "colleges with on-campus medical centers or located near hospitals"

But if cost and acceptance weren’t factors, the "dream college" for most students this year was Harvard College. Parents, on the other hand, chose Stanford University.

Methodology: The Princeton Review surveyed 14,093 people for its 2021 survey: 11,133 students applying for college (79% of respondents) and 2,960 parents of applicants (21% of respondents).

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