More American families are making their college decisions on the cost they can afford to pay, according to a report released Monday by Sallie Mae, the country’s largest student lender. The annual report also finds that more families are implementing more cost-saving measures to pay for college.
The average amount families spent 5 percent less on college in 2012, according to Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College annual study. This year’s study surveyed 1,600 dependent undergraduate college students and parents.
Eighty-three percent of respondents consider higher education to be an investment in the future, while 70 percent believe that now more than ever a college degree is needed. Sixty-nine percent believe it is the path to earning more money.
But paying for college in this prolonged economic downturn continues to challenge families. “The dramatic post-recession decline in American families’ spending on college first seen in 2011 has continued in 2012,” the report finds.
Students are being asked to shoulder more of the financial burden of paying for college. Parents funded 28 percent of college costs from their savings and income in the academic year 2011-2012. Specifically, the report found, they have reduced the amount contributed from the current income by 4 percent and from savings by 22 percent since 2011.
Students have been forced to step up. They paid 30 percent of the total college bill, up from 24 percent four years ago. They paid 18 percent of college costs through borrowing and 12 percent from income and savings. Students spent an average of $2,5555 from their income and savings and took out $3,719 in loans, the report found.
An unprecedented percentage of families (69 percent—the highest in the five years since the first study) said they eliminated college choices because of cost. Other cost-cutting measures include
· Just over half (51 percent) of students reported living at home
· 55 percent of students added a roommate
· Half of parents said they had reduced their spending
· Sixty-six percent of students reduced spending
· Half of students increased work hours
· Forty-five percent took an income tax credit or deduction
A shift also continued toward lower-cost community colleges, with 29 percent enrolled compared to 23 percent two years ago.
Though families are being diligent than ever in seeking the best value for their college choices, financial planning for paying for college expenses is low, the report found, Just 39 percent of families had a plan to pay for college prior to enrollment. High-income families were more likely to have a plan than low-income families.
A Millionaire Corner survey conducted last April found more benevolent attitudes in affluent households. Half of respondents do not believe that their children should contribute more to their college expenses. Fifty-percent also reported shouldering all college expenses
Thirty-eight percent said they have major financial concerns about paying for college vs. 35 percent who said they are not concerned.
More than 40 percent of respondents said it was important for students to pay their own college tuition. At the same time, 40 percent said it is important for students to graduate debt-free.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.