The Primary Reasons Why Students and Parents Choose Specific Colleges Are:

SallieMaeIpsos-Primary-Reason-Choosing-College-Jul2016Academic programs and personal choice are the leading reasons for choosing a college, per results from a new report [pdf] from Sallie Mae Bank and Ipsos Public Affairs. Based on telephone interviews with roughly 800 current college students and 800 parents of college students, the study found that personal choice is the single largest factor for students, while the academic program tops the list for parents.

While cost isn’t the leading factor, financial concerns play a large role in these decisions. Cost was the single determining factor for 14% of parents and 19% of students, while financial aid was the largest factor for roughly 1 in 10 respondents from each group. Combining those two factors (cost and financial aid) suggests that financial considerations weigh on students’ minds more than the academic program.

That may not be too surprising a result, given the impact that students loans have on the Millennial generation. In fact, data contained in a recent MarketingCharts study indicates that one-third of 22-35-year-olds hold student debt, with this being the second most prevalent form of debt behind only credit card debt (37%). Only 38% of Millennials aged 18-35 believe that a student loan is an investment, according to the report, entitled Marketing Financial Services to Millennials.

Of note, though, the Sallie Mae report indicates that almost three-quarters (73%) of college students paid for school in 2015-2016 without student loans.

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Separate results from the study note that 53% of current college students are attending the school that they always planned to. Among those who transferred, students and parents identified the cost and expense (27%) of the college as the main reason for doing so, ahead of the program not meeting their academic needs (20%).

In other words, while financial considerations aren’t the top reason for choosing a college, they are the leading reason for transferring to another school.

Fast Facts

  • Scholarships and grants were responsible for the largest share (34%) of college costs, followed by parent income and savings (29%) and student borrowing (13%).
  • The average amount spent by families on college in 2015-2016 was $23,688, down slightly from the previous year. The average amount spent at private colleges was almost double that spent at public colleges ($41,762 and $23,290, respectively).
  • A majority (55%) of families eliminated at least one school from their prospective ones due to cost prior to beginning the application process.
  • More than 4 in 10 families (44%) waited on their financial aid award before making their final choice of colleges.

About the Data: The report is based on the results of telephone interviews Ipsos conducted between March 16 and April 18, 2016, with 799 parents with children ages 18 to 24 enrolled as undergraduate students, and 799 undergraduate students ages 18 to 24.

Data in the report reflect academic-year expenses, defined as July 1 to June 30, for the 2015-16 academic year.