Families Finding Ways to Spend Less on College

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Bad economy? Rising tuition? Fewer scholarships? Some families have found savings despite all that.

Sallie Mae just released a study called “How America Pays for College 2012,” and it has an interesting mix of findings. For one thing, despite relentless tuition hikes at schools across the country, families are paying less for college. The average amount dropped almost 5 percent from last year, about $1,000.

And that’s despite fewer scholarships from colleges: “The proportion of families receiving scholarships [was] down to 35 percent in 2012 from 45 percent in 2011.” So how are families saving?

The study suggests higher prices are forcing families to wise up and make tougher decisions, including “taking more cost-saving measures” and “making their college decisions based on the cost they can afford to pay.” Stats from the study show students are paying more of their own way and settling for smaller, less prestigious schools…

  • Drawing from savings, income, and loans, students paid 30 percent of the total bill, up from 24 percent four years ago, while parents covered 37 percent of the bill, down from 45 percent four years ago.
  • The percentage of families who eliminated college choices because of cost rose to the highest level (69 percent) in the five years since the study began. Virtually all families exercised cost-savings measures, including living at home (51 percent), adding a roommate (55 percent), and reducing spending by parents (50 percent) and students (66 percent).
  • In 2012, families continued the shift toward lower-cost community college, with 29 percent enrolled, compared to 23 percent two years ago. In fact, overall, families paid 5 percent less for college compared to one year ago.
  • 35 percent of students borrowed education loans to pay for college: 25 percent borrowing federal loans only, 9 percent using a mix of federal and private loans, and 1 percent tapping private loans only.

For ways to keep a college education affordable for you or your family, check out our recent story, 5 Steps to Dramatically Reduce the Cost of College.

Stacy Johnson

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