Post-Secondary Education Decisions During a Recession


To understand how post-secondary education decisions are impacted during a recession to include the key data points of: the difference between application and acceptance rates for community college, public universities, private universities, and certification programs in strong economic conditions compared to recessions and any information about apprenticeships for trades in order to inform future decisions and share with client teams.

Early Findings

Our initial research on post-secondary education decisions during a recession revealed insights. Here are key pieces of information we found:

Post-Secondary Education Decisions During a Recession

  • A study entitled, “Understanding the Recession’s Impact on U.S. College Enrollment and Persistence Patterns,” that focused on the most recent recession period of 2006-2010 found some results that surprised researchers. “The findings are somewhat surprising given the depth of this recession. Through adapted enrollment management, recruitment and financial aid strategies, institutions appear to have weathered these recent years better than many had anticipated.”
  • Increases in community college application and acceptance rates drove overall enrollment during the recession period. Geographic areas hit hardest by recession like Midwestern states saw even greater application and acceptance rates among middle-class adults that need new career skills to stay competitive in a new global marketplace and lower-income students right out of high school that cannot afford a four-year university right away.
  • Despite affordability concerns, four-year universities avoided enrollment drops better than expected and maintained consistent application and acceptance rates during the recession period.
  • According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, the previous recession period led private colleges and universities to offer an average discount rate for first-time freshmen — the share of tuition revenue schools gives to students in the form of scholarships — to a record 50 percent to help maintain consistent application and acceptance rates.
  • Public colleges and universities also offered average discount rates to help maintain consistent application and acceptance rates, particularly for out-of-state students.

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