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Students Willing To Attend Colleges They Can't Afford

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According to a new report, released by the College Board and higher education consulting firm Art & Science Group LLC, many students seriously consider attending colleges they know they cannot afford.

College Board and Art and Science interviewed 1,067 randomly selected high school seniors in early winter about where they were thinking of applying and how difficult it would be for them and their families to pay for college, and then asked a separate group (903 randomly selected students) to answer the same questions in late spring. Overall, 63 percent of the first group and 59 percent of the second responded that they would have a hard time paying for college. And even though the late prospects were nearing their decision deadline, they seemed not to have given much more thought to how they would pay than early prospects.

Some other surprising findings include:

• 24 percent of early prospects said that they hoped to "work [how to pay] out when the time comes" -- and 22 percent of those polled gave the same answer in April.

• 59 percent of early prospects reported not having used financial aid calculators, and close to 40 percent of late prospects gave the same answer.

• 40 percent of the first group polled said that they had "no idea" what they would pay each month for loan repayment, and a statistically similar 39 percent of the second group said the same thing.

• Post-graduation employment was a greater concern to members of the second group -- 60 percent of respondents stated that they were "much more worried about being able to find a job after graduation" in the current economy, as opposed to 54 percent of the group initially questioned.

The poll determined that students were less concerned with how they would pay for college because they valued other factors, like prestige and strength of academic programs, more than tuition costs.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Art & Science group principal Richard A. Hesel worries that students who are unrealistic about how they will pay may not make it through the four years at their chosen college or university, and that "institutions have to work much harder to monitor what's going on with students and stay in touch." In his introduction to the report, he recommends engaging in honest, if difficult, conversations with counselors and financial advisors about how much is too much to pay for college.

Do you think students and their families should care more about the cost of higher education? Please share your thoughts below.