That is one question that I am currently pondering, especially since it would directly affect me and my hopes of landing anything interesting post-college. I have heard anecdotes that students go back to school for JDs and MBAs at higher rates in a recession, but would undergrads take greater advantage of their current education?
There is some reason to expect a trend a priori. If Johnny's parents are facing a recession, Johnny might not be allowed to throw as many killer house parties on the weekends after he graduates. Additionally, there is some evidence that simply being primed to think about money (via monopoly money!) makes students more competitive and individualistic.
However, all my initial informal data gathering by interviewing friends has left me empty handed. Of course, if it is subconscious people not even know why they are trying harder: perhaps they will rationalize their behavior in some other way. Can any of you all recommend anecdotes? Perhaps we could analyze G.R.E. scores? Or are all of my readers too busy studying now?