Pandemic Keeping College-Bound Students Closer to Home

A growing number of college-bound high school seniors and their parents would now prefer a college or university closer to home, according to a new report released today by Brian Communications, a national strategic communications agency. National surveys commissioned by the agency show the effect of the coronavirus crisis on college decision making and present potential opportunities for higher education institutions in large metropolitan areas.

"Students choosing to stay closer to home could be a lifeline for schools in more densely populated regions," said Brian Tierney, CEO of Brian Communications. "For areas such as the Northeast, where there is a high concentration of colleges and universities, and not as much distance to travel, this could be a real opportunity to boost freshman enrollment by adjusting marketing and recruiting strategies. Parents seem to want their children to be able to drive home relatively quickly."

Key findings from the surveys include:

  • 49% of parents would prefer that their child attend a college or university closer to home, a nearly 25% increase from Brian Communications' findings in the spring.
  • 33% of high school seniors would prefer to attend a college or university closer to home.
  • 53% of parents prefer their child to have a mix of in-person and remote learning options for freshman year of college. However, less than half (48%) are willing to pay full tuition for it.
  • 45% of high school seniors prefer a mix of in-person and remote learning options for freshman year of college. Again, less than half (45%) are willing to pay full tuition for it.

"The debate around paying full tuition for a mix of in-person classes and remote learning boils down to value," said David Demarest, senior advisor at Brian Communications and former vice president for public affairs at Stanford University. "The best college administrators and faculty are challenging themselves to view this period as an incredible opportunity to innovate and reinforce the potential that they promise by creating richer and more engaging experiences for students."

According to the data, high school seniors are less certain than their parents of higher education's value. Based on their goals, five in 10 high school seniors think a college education is required for a successful career, compared with seven in 10 parents.