Survey: More freshmen than ever say they are going to college to get better jobs, make more money

The current economic situation in the United States has a major influence on first-year students’ decisions about which college to attend and is reflected in their reasons for pursuing higher education, according to the CIRP Freshman Survey, UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities.

The survey is administered nationally, since 1966, by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. This year 193,000 first time, full-time students took the survey at 283 colleges and universities.

Two out of three first-year students (66.6 percent) surveyed said they believe current economic conditions significantly affected their choice of college, up from 62.1 percent just two years earlier, when the question was first asked.

Reflecting this concern, students are increasingly placing a premium on the job-related benefits of going to college. The portion of incoming freshmen that cited “to be able to get a better job” as a very important reason for attending college reached an all-time high of 87.9 percent in 2012, an increase from 85.9 percent in 2011 and considerably higher than the low of 67.8 percent in 1976. In the minds of today’s college students, getting a better job continues to be the most prevalent reason to go to college.

Many incoming students also said the ability “to make more money” was a very important reason to attend college; this percentage rose from 71. 7% in 2011 to 74.6 in 2012, another all-time high.

“Students have figured out that increased lifetime earnings result from a college education,” said Sylvia Hurtado, director of HERI. “It is important to continue to encourage a long-term view of the benefits of college in this recovering economy.”

Summary Highlights of Study

  • 88% of freshmen surveyed said they were attending college to get a better job (all time high)
  • 75% of freshmen said they are attending college to make more money (all time high)
  • 81% of freshmen said that one of their personal goals is to be “better off financially” (all time high)
  • 66% of all freshmen say economic decisions influenced their decision about which college to attend
  • 76% of freshmen were accepted at 1st choice school but only 59% were attending that school

Read the complete study here.