49% of Recent High School Graduates Would Have Pursued Higher Education if They Received Enough Financial Aid

49% of Recent High School Graduates Would Have Pursued Higher Education if They Received Enough Financial Aid

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected students' need for financial aid and their ability to enroll in further education
high school students taking a test

The coronavirus crisis has left a lasting impact on all aspects of the U.S. educational system, including the ability of high school students to learn about and apply for college financial aid.

And with the fall semester set to begin soon, educational institutions are beginning to see how these changes have affected these students' educational prospects.

In a new survey, educational nonprofit Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans discovered that 49% of recent public high school graduates who are not attending college or a career and technical education (CTE) program would have done so if they had adequate financial aid.

High school graduates forced to change plans due to COVID-19 pandemic

A survey from The Princeton Review fielded earlier this year found that 98% of college applicants needed financial assistance in some shape or form in order to pay for their education.

The Horatio Alger Association survey also revealed just how much the crisis affected students' need for financial aid, including:

  • 41% of students who now need more financial aid than they did before the pandemic
  • 1 in 7 students who now need financial aid that did not need it before

Results indicate that the crisis had a greater effect on first-generation college students, as they were more likely to report an increased need for financial aid than non-first generation students (55% versus 43%).

Another survey from Course Hero showed that almost 40% of students changed their post-graduation plans due to the pandemic, including their course of study, career plans, or changing educational institutions entirely. Meanwhile, the Horatio Alger Association showed that 1 in 10 high school graduates with plans on pursuing higher education don't plan to do so this year or at all anymore.

Other findings suggest that, for some, this issue may have been exacerbated by a lack of information and resources about financial aid during the pandemic. Although 1 in 10 respondents overall said that they didn't have any access to financial aid resources such as a high school guidance counselor, this number was greater — 1 in 6 — for survey participants who aren't moving on to college or a CTE program at this time.

Respondents remain determined and optimistic about the future

As one can imagine, financial aid — especially in the form of scholarships and grants — are crucial in helping high school graduates pursue further education.

For instance, the Horatio Alger Association found that over half (54%) of respondents received scholarships and grants for their college or CTE education. Of that number, 7 in 10 reported that this aid was a deciding factor in their ability to enroll in higher education.

But despite all of the factors — financial and otherwise — that prevent many high school graduates from moving onto the next step in their education, 86% of respondents still agree that a college degree is worth the money.

Although 76% of them admit to feeling anxious about the future, the majority of recent high school graduates are also:

  • Determined (80%)
  • Optimistic (65%)
  • Confident (63%)
  • Disappointed (23%)

Methodology: The Horatio Alger Association commissioned Dynata to conduct an independent survey of 1,000 recent U.S. public high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 19 from June 9-23, 2021. The survey sample included census representation for gender, geographic region, household income, ethnicity and race.