Social Media

How America Pays for College 2014

Now in its seventh year, How America Pays for College 2014, a national study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, provides a compelling snapshot of how families make the important investment and choices in paying for college. This year’s report reiterates families’ strong commitment to college and their belief in the value it brings. At the same time, the report highlights that the way families meet the cost of college has changed as students and parents make more deliberate decisions to afford college.

Specifically, the survey of 1,601 undergraduate students ages 18-24 and parents of undergraduate students ages 18-24 found:


  • A strong belief in the value of college. 98 percent of families agree that college is a worthwhile investment and more than eight in ten families indicate they are willing to stretch themselves financially to obtain the opportunities afforded by higher education.
  • Making deliberate decisions to meet college costs. Virtually every family took at least one step to make college more affordable, and on average families took 5 steps.  This year, families reported the highest enrollment in two-year public colleges since the survey began (34 percent, up from 30 percent last year).
    • Nearly 70 percent opted to attend institutions in-state this year.
    • More than 65 percent cut back on entertainment/vacation costs
    • More than half chose to live at home or with relatives.
  • Greater out-of-pocket spending. Families spent more out of pocket (42 percent of college costs) while overall borrowing (22 percent of college costs) was at the lowest level in five years. Low-income students, in particular, reduced their reliance on borrowed funds when paying for college last year.


This year’s study has three new features: a section devoted to the role of planning for college – what planners did and how they compare to the full population; a section on first in family – how the three in 10 students who were the first generation in their families to attend college accomplished it; and a section on the personas (personality types and behaviors) and paying-for-college readiness of the parents and undergraduates in the survey.  


Read the full report.

Paying for college

Average percentage of total cost of attendance paid from each source


For more information about this report and how families are paying for college, view the infographic: