U.S. Families Spend Significantly More in 2015 to Send Kids to College

A new report shows a big bump in how much families ponied up this year for college after five years of little change. Here’s why.

Paying for college in the United States is often a family affair, with parents’ checking accounts taking a bigger hit these days to cover expenses.

This is according to Sallie Mae’s annual How America Pays for College report, which found that American families spent, on average, $24,164 on college expenses in 2015. This is nearly a 16 percent leap from the $20,882 spent in 2014.

“The rising cost of college undoubtedly influenced families’ increased spending on college,” the report said. “Additionally, though, families may have paid more for college this year, compared with the prior four years, because they felt economically ready to spend more.”

The $24,164 figure includes tuition, room and board, and other college-related expenses.

The increase was significant considering families have spent about the same amount on college expenses for the past five years. Also, for the first time since 2010, parent income and savings (32 percent) have surpassed scholarships and grants (30 percent) as the biggest source of college funding

Other report findings include:

  • Worthwhile investment: Nearly all (97 percent) families view college as a worthwhile investment. What’s more, nearly 9 in 10 families are willing to stretch themselves financially to pay for college.
  • Job security: Fewer parents this year (13 percent) are really worried that their children won’t be able to secure a job after graduation, compared to 27 percent of parents in 2014. Check out the College Majors That Land the 10 Best (and Worst) Paying Jobs.
  • Working students: Students don’t expect their folks to foot their entire college bill. Most students (74 percent) worked at some point during the year, an average of 22 hours per week, to earn money to help cover their schooling costs.
  • Cost-saving planning: Interestingly, just 2 in 5 families said they had a plan to pay for college. Families that did plan actually spent more on college but were able to cover more of the costs with income and savings, and students took out about 40 percent less in student loans than families that didn’t plan.

The report is based on a survey of more than 1,600 undergraduate students (ages 18-24) and parents of undergrads.

Have you started a college savings account for your children? Check out College Savings: How Much Is Enough?

Are you surprised to see that parents are spending a bigger chunk of their income and savings on college? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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