Deciding To Go To College: 2015 College Decisions Survey Part 1

By Betsy Prueter

In the fall of 2014, New America’s Education Policy Program commissioned a College Decisions Survey focused on how students and families make their way through the college-going and financing process.

Among the findings highlighted in the inaugural brief focused on students’ reasons for pursuing postsecondary education and the factors they consider when deciding to apply to a specific college:

• Improving employment opportunities, increasing one’s income potential and getting a good job are the top reasons why students decide to go to college.

o These reasons outranked factors such as a desire to learn about the world, learn more about an area of interest and meeting new people.

o Students between the ages of 16-19 are more likely than older students to say that one of their reasons for going to college is to learn more about a favorite topic of interest or meeting new people. They are also more likely to say that they are going because their parents want them to continue with their education.

o Students between the ages of 30-40 are more likely to say that setting an example and/or building a better life for their children are important factors in considering the pursuit of postsecondary education.

• When considering a specific college, students seemed most concerned about the majors and programs offered, followed closely by the availability of financial aid and college cost.

o Ultimately, when asked to choose the single most important factor for choosing a college, students were most concerned about cost.

• Surprisingly, location was not ranked as particularly important to most students (especially low-income students) as many students indicated they would be willing to drive or take public transportation to a college that was more affordable, had flexible course scheduling options and offered the program they wanted.