• September 16, 2014

This Year's Freshmen at 4-Year Colleges: Highlights of a Survey

Finances and the recession
Large numbers of freshmen are worried about being able to afford college. Here are their survey responses last fall compared with those of freshmen in the fall of 2004, before this recession began.
  2009 2004
Father is unemployed 4.5%* 2.5%
Mother is unemployed 7.9% 5%
Has major or some concern about paying for college 66.7% 65.5%
Expects to cover some expenses through loans 53.4% 49.5%
A very important factor in choosing to attend this college was that its graduates get good jobs 56.5%* 49.1%
Being very well off financially is an essential or very important goal 78.1%* 73.6%
* Record high
Political views
The election of a new president is typically followed by a drop in the percentage of freshmen identifying themselves with his party, the survey's authors say.
  2009 2008
Far left 2.8% 3.2%
Liberal 29.0% 31.0%
Middle of the road 44.4% 43.3%
Conservative 21.8% 20.7%
Far right 2.0% 1.8%
Approaches to learning
During the past year, did you frequently:
Take notes during class 66.5%
Support your opinions with a logical argument 57.8%
Work with other students on class assignments 54.6%
Ask questions in class 53.9%
Accept mistakes as part of the learning process 51.8%
Seek solutions to problems and explain them to others 51.2%
Seek feedback on your academic work 47.3%
Revise your papers to improve your writing 46.6%
Seek alternative solutions to a problem 44.3%
Take a risk because you feel you have more to gain 39.3%
Evaluate the quality or reliability of information you received 36.9%
Explore topics on your own, even though it was not required for a class 30.9%
Look up scientific research articles and resources 21.9%
Opinions
Agree strongly or somewhat:
  2009 2004
Colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus 68.4% 58.6%
Same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status 64.9% 56.7%
Only volunteers should serve in the armed forces 62.8% n/a
Dissent is a critical component of the political process 61.5% n/a
Abortion should be legal 58.0% 53.9%
There is too much concern in the courts for the rights of criminals 55.3% 58.1%
Marijuana should be legalized 45.6% 37.2%
Colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers from campus 40.7% 43.7%
Students from disadvantaged social backgrounds should be given preferential treatment in college admissions 37.4% n/a
Realistically, an individual can do little to bring about changes in our society 27.6% 26.8%
Racial discrimination is no longer a major problem in America 23.2% 22.7%
Objectives considered to be essential or very important:
  2009 2004
Being very well off financially 78.1% 73.6%
Raising a family 74.7% 75.1%
Helping others who are in difficulty 69.1% 62.4%
Becoming an authority in my field 58.5% 58.3%
Improving my understanding of other countries/cultures 49.4% 42.7%
Developing a meaningful philosophy of life 48.0% 42.1%
Influencing social values 42.1% 38.3%
Becoming successful in a business of my own 41.9% 41.0%
Keeping up to date with political affairs 36.0% 34.3%
Becoming a community leader 35.8% 30.7%
Helping to promote racial understanding 33.1% 29.7%
Participating in a community-action program 29.8% 21.5%
Becoming involved in programs to clean up the environment 26.9% 17.5%
Making a theoretical contribution to science 21.6% 17.8%
Influencing the political structure 20.8% 19.7%
Creating artistic work (painting, sculpture, decorating, etc.) 16.2% 15.6%
Becoming accomplished in one of the performing arts (acting, dancing, etc.) 16.1% 15.1%
Writing original works (poems, novels, short stories, etc.) 16.0% 15.1%
Age, language, race, religion
Age on Dec. 31, 2009
17 or younger 1.7%
18 68.0%
19 28.7%
20 or older 1.6%
English is native language
Yes 91.6%
No 8.4%
Racial and ethnic background
White/Caucasian 73.1%
African-American/Black 11.0%
Asian-American/Asian 8.9%
Mexican-American/Chicano 5.5%
Other Latino 4.2%
American Indian/Alaska Native 2.5%
Puerto Rican 1.5%
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 1.0%
Other 3.4%
Religious preference
Roman Catholic 26.9%
Baptist 10.9%
Church of Christ 4.8%
Methodist 4.6%
Lutheran 3.8%
Presbyterian 2.9%
Jewish 2.6%
Episcopalian 1.3%
Buddhist 1.1%
Muslim 1.0%
United Church of Christ/Congregational 0.8%
Hindu 0.7%
Eastern Orthodox 0.6%
Latter-day Saints (Mormon) 0.3%
Seventh-day Adventist 0.3%
Quaker 0.2%
Other Christian 12.7%
Other religion 2.7%
None 21.9%
Parents
Parents' education (highest level)
  Father Mother
Grammar school or less 4.1% 3.7%
Some high school 5.2% 3.8%
High-school graduate 19.3% 17.4%
Postsecondary school other than college 3.2% 3.5%
Some college 14.5% 16.8%
College degree 28.4% 33.4%
Some graduate school 2.1% 2.7%
Graduate degree 23.0% 18.7%
Estimated parental income
Less than $10,000 4.0%
$10,000 to $14,999 3.0%
$15,000 to $19,999 2.7%
$20,000 to $24,999 3.7%
$25,000 to $29,999 3.4%
$30,000 to $39,999 6.1%
$40,000 to $49,999 7.2%
$50,000 to $59,999 8.2%
$60,000 to $74,999 10.8%
$75,000 to $99,999 14.0%
$100,000 to $149,999 17.6%
$150,000 to $199,999 7.8%
$200,000 to $249,999 4.4%
$250,000 or more 7.2%
Status of parents
Both alive and living with each other 70.2%
Both alive, divorced or living apart 26.1%
One or both deceased 3.8%
Making the choice, settling in
Number of other colleges applied to for admission this year
None 14.1%
1 10.5%
2 13.3%
3 15.7%
4 13.3%
5 9.9%
6 7.1%
7 to 10 12.6%
11 or more 3.3%
Accepted by first-choice college
Yes 79.2%
No 20.8%
College attended is student's:
First choice 60.7%
Second choice 25.9%
Third choice 8.7%
Less than third choice 4.7%
Top reasons noted as very important in selecting college attended
Graduates get good jobs 56.5%
The cost of attending 41.6%
A visit to the campus 41.4%
Wanted to go to a school about the size of this college 39.8%
Graduates gain admission to top graduate/professional schools 34.6%
Wanted to live near home 20.1%
Information from a Web site 19.2%
Rankings in national magazines 18.5%
Admitted through an early-action or early-decision program 12.9%
Could not afford first choice 12.2%
Advice from high-school counselor 10.3%
Not offered aid by first choice 8.9%
Recruited by the athletics department 8.9%
The religious affiliation/orientation of the college 7.8%
Advice from private college counselor 3.6%
Ability to take online courses 2.7%
Miles from college to permanent home
5 or fewer 4.8%
6 to 10 6.0%
11 to 50 24.4%
51 to 100 17.8%
101 to 500 33.0%
More than 500 14.1%
Housing plans during fall term
College residence hall 79.5%
With family or other relatives 14.2%
Other private home, apartment, or room 2.8%
Other campus student housing 2.7%
Fraternity or sorority house 0.5%
Other 0.3%
Intended majors
Professional 14.4%
Business 14.4%
Arts and humanities 13.3
Social science 11.7%
Biological science 9.7%
Engineering 9.7%
Education 8.1%
Physical science 3.4%
Technical fields 1.1%
Other fields 7.5%
Undecided 6.8%
Note: The statistics are based on survey responses of 219,864 first-year, first-time students attending 297 four-year colleges and universities full time in the fall of 2009. The figures were statistically adjusted to represent a national population of approximately 1.4 million such students. Because of rounding or multiple responses, figures may add up to more than 100 percent. 'N/a' means the question was not asked that year.
Source: The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2009, published by the U. of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute

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