Teens making “conservative” college choices in struggling economy


High school senior Andi Akpe wanted to spend his next four years at a racially diverse college, but then the economy crashed.

“I personally just really wanted to go to a college that had, you know, flavor! But with the price of tuition going up and everything, I knew my focus would have to be on the cost,” Akpe said.

Akpe’s made that decision, he said, after seeing his family struggle to pay for his private high school education at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis.

Akpe said that after financial aid and in-school work service, his family was able to come up with “just enough to get by.”

Now instead of looking for a diverse student body, Akpe is searching for good scholarships.

Beth Braun, a guidance counselor at DeLaSalle, said some of the traditional things students look at when picking colleges are the programs of their intended major, the financial-aid package, and also the “feel” of the school.

Braun says the economic turmoil is “affecting everything,” including the cost of post-secondary education. Families can expect to pay up to $1,398 more in tuition this year, according to the College Entrance Examination Board.

JoAnne Austin, 18, of Southwest Christian High School, planned on going to college in Colorado because none of her older siblings were there.

As the second youngest of seven children, Austin said: “I wanted to set my own trail.”

With the price of tuition rising, Austin said she felt she should limit her choices to in-state schools as their tuition is cheaper.

St. Paul Central High School senior Sydney Colquitt said while searching for colleges she paid a lot of attention to the various study abroad programs that the schools had to offer because learning French is one of her passions.

Colquitt has been accepted into more than one college. Because of the economy, their travel programs are taking a back seat to which schools offer the best scholarships.

Braun said she anticipates the economy will also affect students’ choices after college when students are looking for jobs.

Students may become more “conservative” in their career choices, she said, as she’s seeing students starting to choose what are thought of as “safer” majors, like education, computer technology, and health care.

“I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to find a job that matches up with my major,” Colquitt said.

Colquitt hasn’t chosen a major yet, but said she realizes that — like choosing a college — choosing a major in this economy will take a lot of critical thinking.