Even with tuition rates as high as they are, it’s still preferable to be entering college right now than exiting. The Class of 2012 is faced with an unemployment rate of 50%, making the payback of their $25,000 in debt on average tough to pay back. Still, the studies and surveys make it clear that if current trends hold, the Class of 2016 will have a hard go of it as well. Whether they reveal high competition, high cost, or some other issue, these 15 facts have a lot to tell us about this year’s frosh.
1 Freshmen are facing some of the lowest acceptance rates in history:
The huge pool of applicants, coupled with international students who still consider higher education in America the standard for excellence, have caused many schools to report their 2012 acceptance rates will be the lowest in their history. Stanford, Tufts, six of the eight Ivy league schools, MIT, Duke, and more set records for how few they are letting in, either in early admission or regular decision.
2 Students have requested $167 million in federal grants and loans:
In a sure sign college is getting no less difficult to pay for, the government has had $22 million worth of additional requests for financial aid from students, according to the Department of Education. By the time the Class of 2016 is graduating, the Department projects $204 million will be requested, as the cost of public higher education will have doubled since 2001.
3 They may be stuck with interest rates on their loans twice as high as the Class of 2015:
Congress’ inability to agree that making college affordable is important and a necessary use of government resources is threatening (as of this writing) to saddle incoming freshmen with 6.8% interest rates on their federal student loans. This squabbling says volumes about the two-party system and politicians’ efficacy on everyday Americans’ lives.
4 Many will be part of their school’s most diverse freshman class in history:
Reflecting the country’s increasingly diverse population, many colleges and universities are reporting this year’s freshman class will be its most ethnically and geographically diverse ever. At the University of Chicago, it’s a 42% rate for students of color; at Centre College in Kentucky, it’s 20%. Examples of other record or near-record levels include those at William & Mary, Colgate, Case Western Reserve, Skidmore, and Northwestern.
5 Some were recruited by colleges four years ago:
College shopping used to be an activity for high schoolers and their parents during the fall semester of senior year. But in recent times, the competition for coveted spots at highly ranked schools has led to colleges mailing info to high school sophomores and even freshmen and keeping in touch with them via social media.
6 The number of them entering college immediately after high school graduation will be high:
Since 1975, the rate of kids leaving for college right after getting their high school diploma has been climbing for all income areas, but it’s grown the fastest since 2001. In 2009 it hit an all-time high of 70%, and in 2010 (the most recent year with data) its 68% rate was considered as having “no measurable difference.” This pattern should hold for the Class of 2016, making theirs one of the most crowded freshmen classes in history.
7 Their degrees will be crucial for finding a job:
While real earnings are going down, the wage premium for college degree-holders is a sky-high 84%. The demand for workers with degrees is going to remain high, as an estimated two-thirds of American jobs in the next decade will require a college education. This is a telling stat in the debate over whether higher education, with its increasing costs and sinking standards, is worth the investment in today’s market.
8 They will study more and party less:
According to annual polls by UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, today’s students enter college more sober-minded about education than they had been before the recession. Since 2009, the rates of students who said they had studied at least six hours a week in high school has been going up, from 34.7% to 37.3% in 2010 and 39.5% in 2011. Over the same period, there’s been a 4% drop in the number who said they partied at least some each week.
9 Fewer colleges are asking for their standardized test scores:
While the majority of universities still require SAT and/or ACT scores for admission, a growing number of this freshmen class will get in without submitting their scores. DePaul was the latest to make the scores optional, joining schools like the University of California, Wake Forest, Bowdoin, Smith, and Dickinson. Colorado-Boulder recently dropped its requirement for the scores from international students.
10 They’ll rely heavily on digital texts:
The predicted takeover of print textbooks by digital media has been slow in getting off the ground. Nevertheless, the numbers indicate the Class of 2016 will be heavy tablet PC users. According to the Pearson Foundation, tablet ownership among high school seniors had quadrupled from Spring 2011 to 2012. With the ease of textbook reading that tablets offer, the popularity of e-books should rise significantly.
11 Most of them will plan to continue past a bachelor’s:
In a telling bit of data about young students’ confidence in the job market, only one in five freshmen will plan to stop at an undergraduate degree. Compare that with 1972′s rate of over 60% of students who were content to finish school with a bachelor’s degree. No doubt it is a situation where students feel a graduate degree will help them stand out, while delaying entering a tough job market.
12 Three-fourths of them will probably not be adequately prepared for college:
The last ACT report on incoming college freshmen’s preparedness found that only 25% of them cleared ACT’s academic standards for being able to handle college-level courses. The other three-quarters were predicted to need at least one remedial course in which to brush up on curriculum from high school.
13 Their primary motivation for going to college will be to get a good job:
Teenagers may not be up-to-speed on some current events, but they’re certainly aware that the job market is rocky. Since 2009, the number one reason college freshmen have given pollsters has been ‘to land a better job.’ In 2011, the rate of this answer appearing hit a 40-year high of 85.9%. As the economy continues to struggle, it’s safe to assume job concerns will also be this freshman class’ top priority.
14 Women will continue to outpace men in college enrollment:
Since overtaking men in total college enrollment in the late ’70s, women have been steadily taking a bigger share of college attendees and graduates. The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that the gap will widen during this class’ tenure, eventually hitting 59% of total undergrad enrollment. This will have many associated changes in the workplace, as female degree holders begin to strongly outnumber men.
15 This class will have an unusually high number of potheads:
Apparently the anti-tobacco campaigns have been a success with this year’s incoming freshmen, but at the expense of the anti-drug programs as a whole. A recent survey of almost 50,000 students found nearly 23% of high school seniors had smoked weed in the last month, compared to about 19% who said they had smoked cigarettes.