Graduating Seniors Encouraged to Look For Reliable, Less Expensive Alternatives
> 7/31/2006 9:43:48 AM

The United States is home to more high-school seniors today than at any previous point in its history, and many are advised to navigate an increasingly competitive college applicant field by moving away from some of the most popular-and highly populated-secondary school destinations.

A New York Times article
reports that the children of baby boomers, comprising a generational phenomenon known as the echo boom, is largely responsible for the continued expansion of graduating high school classes. Additionally, population growth in certain geographic areas is behind many of the shifts in attendance. Higher rates of birth and immigration leave western states like Texas and Arizona, as well as southern states like Georgia and Florida, with more and more students and fewer positions in their top schools:

The most selective private colleges have become phenomenally so. Flagship public campuses are increasingly difficult to penetrate. But there are hidden gems around the nation, higher learning institutions cached in states where population growth is stagnant or dwindling.

“Migration depends on supply and demand,” says David A. Longanecker, executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, based in Boulder, Colo. “You will see substantial migration into Sun Belt states because there is capacity there.” Some states, though, “are growing so large they will need to force students out.”

Experts say that, backup choices and safe bets are increasingly not so for many seniors. Florida, for example, has so many incoming college students that they have been forced to turn away thousands who would have been accepted only a few years ago. Though more students now recognize the necessity of a college degree in today's workforce, rising tuition costs and increased competition over select positions make the process more frustrating for many. As a more affordable alternative, many college coaches and education professionals urge students to turn to quality schools in states that are losing students to migration. While universities in Nebraska, Maine and Oklahoma will never be as attractive to seniors as schools in New York, Miami or San Francisco, they may offer excellent educational opportunities and reduced tuitions for many students, especially those whose high school transcripts do not qualify them for the Ivy Leagues.

Though financial concerns are a top priority for many students, and most states offer special incentives to those who attend in-state schools, elite institutions in the New England, Florida, and California remain the country's most desirable college options. Students pick these pricey schools for their popularity and reputations, and most applicants come from the higher end of the economic scale. So public image still drives decisions regarding secondary schools, but more and more students will find it necessary to consider other, more affordable options as trends in American college attendance continue to shift.

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