Economy calls for change in college plans

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One-third of students are changing their college plans because of the economy according to the 2009 Back to College survey. The nationwide survey, conducted by the nation's largest nonprofit full service credit counseling organization, , measured the toll of the economy on students' plans for attending and paying for college.

Tuition, room, and board for the average undergraduate student in the 2007-2008 school year cost $11,578 at a public institution ($29,915 at a private school) according to the . That price, combined with the sluggish economy, is too much for one-third of survey respondents.

One-third of respondents say they are changing their college plans. Of those who say they are changing their plans for college, 38 percent plan to attend a less expensive school, 35 percent plan to go to a community college to complete basic courses, and 31 percent have decided to attend school closer to home. Four percent of students are postponing college and, shockingly, eight percent have decided not to attend school at all.

Students are shouldering more of the financial burden. Parents, less able to offer financial assistance than in years past, are passing the financial responsibility on to students. Of those surveyed, 86 percent believe students should apply for scholarships and/or grants to fund college costs.

Amber Collins, a sophomore at Louisiana State University, is a recipient of the Bill Gates Scholarship, which offers students as much as $50,000 a year to pay for school and living expenses. Collins took advantage of , a site that uses students' demographic and educational information to match them to scholarships and grants they are eligible to receive. Collins says she worked hard for her scholarship in high school, "I earned a 3.5 GPA, got involved in a great internship at the Houston Chronicle, and focused on my future so I could attend the college I wanted without worrying about money."

For students who want the freedom to attend the college they want in the current economy, striving for academic excellence in high school and setting clear goals for the future should be a top priority.