The Financial Crisis and College Enrollment: How Have Students and Their Families Responded?

Bridget Terry Long

This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book How the Financial Crisis and Great Recession Affected Higher Education, Jeffrey Brown and Caroline Hoxby, editors
Conference held September 27-28, 2012
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores how the Great Recession affected college enrollment and costs to families. As with past recessions, reductions in income and increases in tuition prices could have had negative effects on enrollment, while growing unemployment could have had the opposite effect by reducing the foregone costs of attending school. However, the Great Recession occurred within a much more complex postsecondary context than ever before, with the prominence of student loans but the changing availability of debt, a major increase in the number of college-age students, and substantial policy changes in federal financial aid. The net effect of these positive and negative pressures is unclear. Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), an annual survey of colleges and universities, I investigate how the Great Recession affected college enrollment levels, attendance intensity, tuition costs, and financial aid. The analysis suggests college attendance levels increased during the recession, especially in the states most affected in terms of rising unemployment and declining home values, but it was part-time enrollment that grew while full-time enrollment declined. The tuition revenue collected per student also grew, while grants did not offset the increase in cost, and student loan amounts also increased.

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This paper was revised on January 27, 2014

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