WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — College costs and financial aid are playing an increasingly decisive role in how incoming freshman in the U.S. determine where to attend school, according to a new UCLA survey.

KNX 1070’s Margeret Carrero reports experts say the trends suggest first-generation students are less willing to create a financial burden for their families.

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According to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey, UCLA’s annual survey of the nation’s entering students at four-year colleges and universities, only 57 percent of students enrolled at their first-choice campus in 2013 – the lowest proportion since 1974.

Although more than three-quarters (75.5 percent) of those surveyed were admitted to their first-choice campus in 2013, the number of those who actually enrolled at their first-choice school hit an all-time low, as cost and financial aid incentives swayed decisions.

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The survey, which is administered nationally by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, also found the percentage of students indicating that cost was a “very important” factor in their college-choice process reached 46 percent – an increase of nearly 15 percentage points from 2004 and its highest point in the 10 years CIRP has measured the item.

“Students are smart to understand net cost differences, but they otherwise must rely on high schools and institutions to help them navigate the college-choice and financial aid processes,” said Sylvia Hurtado, director of HERI. “It is not clear that there is adequate counseling for the final stage of decisions these students make.”

But for Caleb, a junior at UCLA, the financial aid process has made him more appreciative of simply being able to receive a college education.

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“Now that I’m here, I think I realized it matters less and less where you go, it just kind of matters more what you do and how you network where you are,” he said.

Click here (PDF)
for more info from “The American Freshman” March 2014 report.