Press Release

Half of Students Not Attending College This Fall Would Have Pursued Further Education if They Had Received Adequate Financial Aid, Survey Finds

July 20, 2021 


Carly Colombo


Half of Students Not Attending College This Fall Would Have Pursued Further Education if They Had Received Adequate Financial Aid, Survey Finds

National survey commissioned by the Horatio Alger Association reveals that scholarships and grants are a deciding factor for students when determining their future educational plans

WASHINGTON D.C. (JULY 20, 2021) – Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education, today released findings from a nationally representative survey. Notably, it concluded that among recent public high school graduates, half of those who are not attending college or enrolling in a career and technical education (CTE) program would have attended if they had received adequate financial aid.

The independent survey was commissioned by the Horatio Alger Association, one of the nation’s largest need-based scholarship providers to students across the United States and Canada, and conducted by Dynata, the world’s largest first-party data and insights platform. The survey of 1,000 recent public high school graduates was conducted between June 9 – 23, 2021.

Key findings of the survey, which was designed to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on recent public high school graduates’ future educational plans and gain a better understanding of their financial needs, include:

  • Despite its rising cost, students today still believe that a college degree is valuable. 86 percent think a four-year college degree is worth the money.
  • The pandemic increased many students’ need for financial assistance. Four in ten students now need more financial aid than they did before the pandemic, and one in seven students who did not previously require aid need it now.
  • Scholarships and grants are critically important factors in students’ decision to pursue higher education. Seven in ten students who received scholarships or grants said it was a deciding factor in their ability to enroll in college or a CTE program.
  • The pandemic presumably contributed to one in four students changing their plans post-high school graduation. One in ten students who planned to enroll in college or a CTE program pre-pandemic are now not pursuing higher education this year or at all.

“The survey clearly reveals that the financial burden of college is a significant barrier to entry, and the pandemic has further increased many college- or CTE-bound students’ need for financial assistance,” said James F. Dicke II, president of the Horatio Alger Association and 2015 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “These new insights affirm that scholarships and grants are more important than ever. We hope that this data breathes new life into ongoing discussions around access to post-secondary education in our country. The large majority of this year’s graduating high school class see the value in continuing their education, and would pursue a postsecondary degree, if they had the means.”

In addition to examining students’ need for financial aid, the survey explored their access to necessary financial aid information including guidance counselors, financial aid counselors or online/print resources. Further, after a difficult year, recent high school graduates were asked how they are feeling about the future. Insights include:

  • Disparities in access to financial aid information resources may have impacted students’ decisions to pursue higher education. One in six students who are not attending college or enrolling in a CTE program at this time had no access to financial aid information resources.
  • Recent high school graduates have proven to be resilient in the face of the challenges faced over the past 16 months. They are determined (80 percent) and optimistic (65 percent), but also feel anxious about the future (76 percent).

“If we want more students from diverse backgrounds to consider furthering their education, we must ensure that they have access to the necessary resources to help pay for it,” said Terrence J. Giroux, executive director of the Horatio Alger Association. “The Association is committed to bridging this gap through the scholarships and support services we offer to our Scholars, including individualized financial aid package review, counseling services, 24/7 crisis line support and more.”

With a sample size of 1,000, this independent, online national survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The sampling included students between the ages of 17 and 19 in the United States with census representation for ethnicity/race, gender, geographic region and household income.


About Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans:

Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. is dedicated to the simple but powerful belief that hard work, honesty and determination can conquer all obstacles. The Association honors the achievements of outstanding leaders who have accomplished remarkable successes in spite of adversity by bestowing upon them the Horatio Alger Award and inducting them as lifetime Members. Horatio Alger Members support promising young people with the resources and confidence needed to overcome adversity in pursuit of their dreams through higher education. Through the generosity of its Members and friends, in 2020, the Association awarded more than $21 million in undergraduate and graduate need-based scholarships to 2,500 students across the United States and Canada and provided college support and mentoring services to its Scholars. Since 1984, the Association has awarded more than $235 million in undergraduate, graduate, military veteran and career and technical education scholarships to more than 35,000 deserving students. For more information, please visit

Our Members

Horatio Alger Members are part of a select group of individuals who have experienced a wide spectrum of what life can offer. Similar to characters in stories by Horatio Alger, Jr., they traditionally have started life in “humble” or economically challenging circumstances.

Learn more

Our Scholarship Programs

The Association administers more than 70 undergraduate and graduate need-based scholarship programs.

Learn more