Rising tuition costs and a slow recession recovery are forcing more students to rethink college plans.
According to a recent report by Sallie Mae, the nation's number one college lender, "more than half of students [polled] lived at home while they attended college this year." The numbers described in the How America Pays for College study show a nearly 9% jump from the previous year.
The findings also show how students are absorbing more of the cost of education than ever before. And for Colorado Mesa University junior Whitney Robison, it was the same scenario she faced three years ago.
"If someone came here, who went here four years ago and came here today, it'd be totally different," she remarked.
As a senior at Grand Junction High School, she was looking forward to college away from the area. But money quickly became an obstacle. "It's a major factor," Robison said.
Since 2008, more and more students have been joining her in staying close to home.
"People pinch their pennies a little more and look for the best value," Colorado State University President Tony Frank said.
At Frank's school in Fort Collins, the ratio of in-state and out-of-state students has maintained despite the study's findings. "This will be our fourth year of record enrollment," he noted. "More Colorado high school students choose CSU than any other university."
On the Western Slope at CMU, enrollment is bucking the trend. "Our out-of-state growth, we've gone from about six or seven percent of our population to about 12 percent," President Tim Foster said of recent years.
Foster attributes the increase in both non-resident and resident student groups to an emphasis on quality of education centered around small class sizes.
"It's that personal approach to education that, I think, trumps everything else," Foster said. "It's sort of a private college and a public college price."
CMU will also see an increase in enrollment heading into next year, although the number has not been narrowed specifically. Over the last six years, the fastest growing college in the state has doubled its campus size and has plans of another academic building.
Current students, like Robison who once considered other schools but were forced to stay closer because of costs, are happy they are there.
"They have my major, a great program." she said. "So, I love it. It's awesome."
Both colleges in this report are increasing tuition rates going into the next school year. At CSU, officials say in-state students will see a 9% increase. "But, it's still a very good bargain and among the average for major comprehensive research universities," Frank said.
CMU officials provided figures on Wednesday describing a 4.9% tuition increase going into 2012.