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College Choice: An Examination of Projected Student Indebtedness

John D Felton, Johnson & Wales University


The purpose of this study was to evaluate how the rising costs of higher education and a poor economy are influencing the college selection process of traditional aged college students. The study focused on the rising costs in higher education and investigated the debt that is directly linked to those costs. Specifically, this research delved into factors that influenced what institution the current cohort of students chose to attend and the individuals who are influencing decisions on debt, including parents, high school counselors, college admissions personnel, and the internet. Research for this study included a review of the current literature on projected student debt and college selection including the works of Perna, Lillis, Harrast, and Tian; these authors assisted in framing the study. In the study trends in college pricing (2010), the College Board outlines the struggles of parents and students, as they search for answers on college costs. The Board reports that the average family income in the United States in 2009 was equal to or below income levels a decade earlier, when inflation is factored. The Project on Student Debt (2010) confirms these fears, reporting that two-thirds of the college seniors who graduated in 2010 had over $25,250 in debt, up five percent from 2009. This correlational, quantitative study surveyed second and fourth year, traditional aged students from one public institution in a Northeast state. The findings indicated only 8.3% of the students expected to graduate debt free. The overall mean for the sample that answered quantitatively ( N=51) had an expected debt after graduation of $38,070. While half of the respondents (N=72) reported that were unsure of what their monthly loan payments would be after graduation. Findings also showed 43.1% of those students made use of private lending to finance their education, which often carry less favorable terms (Baum and Schwartz, 2006). The results could be used by leaders in higher education, financial advocacy groups, and administrators in the K-12 area in order to better educate students and parents on their rights, commitments, and available options in financing a college education.

Subject Area

Education finance|Educational leadership|School administration

Recommended Citation

Felton, John D, "College Choice: An Examination of Projected Student Indebtedness" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3507776.