First day of classes at the admissions and advising office at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md.
First day of classes at the admissions and advising office at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md. - 
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Steve Chiotakis: Ah, it's the time of the year for parents and students to decide about college. But in this economic fallout, that decision is causing some anxiety. For parents, who are looking for deals. And for four-year schools, which are seeing smaller community colleges competing for dollars. Here's Emily Hanford of American RadioWorks.

Emily Hanford: Kathy Moore is a counselor at Blake High School in suburban Maryland. As the price of college shot up over the past decade, she received more and more glossy brochures in the mail. Schools touting new athletic facilities, dorms with private bathrooms, fancy campus centers.

Kathy Moore: This is all glitz. But let's face it, our generation is used to all this.

They might need to start getting used to something else.

Sekouh Bah's an example. He started out at a four-year school in Pennsylvania. He had financial aid, but still had to borrow about $12,000. Watching the economy melt down last fall, he got nervous about graduating with lots of debt. So he transferred to a community college.

Sekouh Bah: I mean college is worth it, my parents have always told education is the most important thing. But when colleges get ridiculous, I don't think it's worth, it cause you can get the same education somewhere else for way cheaper.

Bah now takes a full load of classes at Montgomery College in Maryland, where tuition is less than $4,000 a year. And he likes it.

The community college doesn't keep track of how many students transfer from four-year schools, but enrollment is up nearly 10 percent, and officials expect even more students in the fall. And this has expensive private colleges nervous.

Mary Ellen Duffy: Why should I send my child to your school when there's a public institution down the road that costs a lot less?

This is a question Mary Ellen Duffy gets a lot these days. She's director of financial aid at Albright College, a small, liberal arts school in Reading, Pennsylvania. Tuition, room and board add up to about $40,000 a year. To keep students coming, Albright has always had to offer a lot of financial aid. And next year, they're offering even more -- and freezing staff and faculty salaries to do it.

I'm Emily Hanford for Marketplace.