Are today's students migrating to value?

Discover how students' choices are shifting and what it means for you

Topics: Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, Admissions, Strategic Planning

Erin Mischler

The Challenge: Changing Student Attitudes
As the sticker price of a college degree increases and family incomes stagnate, the amount of financial aid awarded has become a more important factor in a student’s college choice. Although a school’s reputation and its graduates’ outcomes have remained important, the increased importance of aid reveals a changing student calculus.


Aid Award Increasing in Importance as College Decision Driver
Percentage of Students Indicating Each Factor as "Very Important"

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The Result: Increasing Market Power for "Best Value" Options

Students’ changing attitudes have resulted in different enrollment patterns. For example, an increasing proportion of high-ability and non-resident students are migrating to flagship and other selective public universities, which stand out from other institutions due to their perceived value. As a result, the best public universities have significantly expanded non-resident enrollment—even the non-resident tuition prices at these schools are often still lower than the sticker prices of regional private universities.

Non-Resident Students Gravitating Toward Flagship and Selective
Public Universities

Growth in FT-FT Students from 2007-2012

Flagship and selective public universities have benefited from their newfound market power by enrolling a greater proportion of high-ability students as well—increasing the academic quality of their FT-FT cohorts.

High-Ability Students Migrating to Selective Publics
SAT point change (2002-2012)

Implications for My University

These trends are relevant to all schools because they show the changing attendance patterns of students and the migration of their tuition revenue dollars. Changes in student decision-making have put the best public universities in an enviable market position.

Flagship and Selective Publics Experiencing Outsized NTR/Capita Growth
NTR/Capita Annual Growth Rate from 2008-2012

Flagship and selective publics’ combination of high academic quality and relatively low price has helped them to maintain steady enrollment growth throughout one of the toughest periods of student recruitment. These schools should continue to capitalize on these changing student behaviors by marketing their affordability. Threatened privates, on the other hand, might more proactively promote available aid to reassure prospective students put off by high sticker prices. Learn more about the impact of price transparency and financial aid communications at our upcoming webconference.