The nation’s college freshmen are more financially advantaged today than they have been at any point in the last 35 years and come from families with a median income 60 percent higher than the national average, according to a new UCLA report that examined 40 years of data from UCLA’s national survey of entering undergraduates at four-year colleges and universities.
The report, “American Freshmen: Forty-Year Trends 1966–2006,”documents the values and characteristics of college freshmen nationwide and is part of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
“As colleges and universities continue their financial policies of increasing tuition and fees, we are seeing direct effects on students that come from poorer families,” said José Luis Santos, UCLA assistant professor of education and an author of the report. “Poorer students alter their choices of whether or not to go to college at all, or choose a college based on financial costs and packages. Students from wealthier families can endure greater fluctuations in ‘sticker price’ than poorer students, and as a result, more students entering college come from homes that are increasingly wealthier than the national median income.”
In 2005, entering freshmen came from households with a parental median income of $74,000, 60 percent higher than the national average of $46,326. This represents a 14 percent increase from 1971, whenstudents’ median family income was $13,200, 46 percent higher than the national average of $9,028.