A few weeks ago, we noticed some evidence that students are shifting their enrollment to lower-cost institutions. This got us thinking about how to explore where students choose to attend college, and we thought this chart was probably the most revealing. It simply shows tuition vs. net tuition, with the size of each dot being proportional to total enrollment at the college (bigger dot = more students).
This confirms some of the findings we discussed in previous posts: There are a lot of colleges, particularly public, two-year institutions but quite a few public, four-year colleges too, where net tuition is negative (meaning that grant aid covers all of the tuition and fees the college charges, with some left over for books, transportation, or room and board).
But what this chart really reveals is that students are clustered at lower-cost institutions. The lower left corner is so cluttered that we can’t even see the background, meaning most students are enrolling in large, low-cost institutions. In contrast, the upper left portion has many visible gaps.
Also note that this clustering seems to be driven by public institutions. Not only are most public institutions concentrated in the lower left corner, but even among public institutions, the size of the dots indicate more affordable colleges tend to attract more students than their more expensive peers. This is not the case among private institutions, where the dots show there isn’t much difference between how many students more expensive colleges enroll and the number of students their more affordable peers seem to attract.