Now in its ninth edition, How America Pays for College 2016, a national study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, is an annual report that looks at undergraduate families' attitudes toward college, how much they spent, and the sources they used to pay for it.
The majority of American families – 97 percent –believe college is an investment in their children’s future, and almost nine in ten are willing to stretch themselves financially to pay for college. This year’s report reveals some shifts in how families are making college more affordable and parents’ expectations of their college students.
Specifically, the survey of nearly 1,600 undergraduate students ages 18-24 and parents of undergraduate students ages 18-24 found:
- Families paid less out of pocket for college in academic year 2015-16 than in 2014-15 as they took advantage of more scholarships and grants to foot the bill. Compared to academic year 2014-15, families paid seven percent, or approximately $1,100, less from out of pocket funds, which includes income, savings, and borrowed funds.
- Scholarships and grants covered 34 percent of college costs, the largest proportion of any resource used to pay for college in the past five years. Approximately half of families used a scholarship or grant to help pay for college.
- Fewer than half of families borrowed to pay for college. Student borrowing covered 13 percent of what families spent, down from 16 percent in 2014-15.
- Ninety percent of parents expect their student to earn a bachelor’s degree and 54 percent expect their student to earn a graduate degree.
- Two-thirds of families (67 percent) narrowed their college choices due to cost, but when it came to making the final decision, cost ranked third (cited by 27 percent of respondents) — behind academic program and personal choice (each cited by 31 percent).
- One-third of students were attending community college as the first step toward a bachelor’s degree.
Read the full report.