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(NECN/NBC News: Steve Handelsman) - The economy is improving, but the traumatic Great Recession has had its effect on the economics of college.
At Howard University in Washington, students say many are shying away from majors such as African-American studies in favor of fields that lead to careers after college.
"I picked sports medicine so I could go into physical therapy because I know that it is a growing field and I can get a job after I get through grad school," Howard University senior Rodney Hill says.
More graduates will go to work with less debt also since there's less reliance on college loans.
That issue was touched on Tuesday in the U.S. Senate - where federal student loan rates were allowed to double - and there's a possible deal to drop rates, but still let them rise if market rates go up.
"It's a good step forward in the direction of accomplishing things on a bi-partisan basis," Senator Mitch McConnell says.
But instead of loans, more kids are turning to scholarships and grants.
"I looked into the school basically that could supply me with the most money, because I live with my mother," George Washington University student Blake McNulty says. "She's single and raising three kids."
More families are also picking colleges based on cost. Factors going into that decision include:
Practical majors, fewer loans and more grants are among the big post-recession trends noted in Tuesday's report by Sallie Mae that studied college families.
"They are approaching the expense - ah the investment - with cost consciousness we just didn't see before the recession," Sallie Mae Senior VP Sarah Ducic says.
Taylor Davis and her mom had that mindset when they picked Taylor's major.
"Nursing most definitely is a field that's in demand, so I will leave college with a job," she says.
One big thing that the study says has not changed is that 85 percent of parents say they see college costs as an investment in their children's future.