Students Choose Lower-Cost Colleges

Families spent 9 percent less on college last year, according to a new Sallie Mae study. Spending had been going up each year, despite the recession, but more parents say they’re asking their children to choose lower-cost colleges, live at home or attend part-time.

Twenty-two percent of students from high-income families started at community colleges, up from only 12 percent the year before.  Thirty-seven percent live at home.

While 51 percent of parents were “willing to stretch” financially to send a child to college, that’s down from 64 percent in 2010.

The rise in low-income college students may be explained by families falling out of the middle class, writes Daniel Luzer on College, Inc.

The steepest decline in college spending came among upper-income families, those earning six-figure incomes, whose average outlay declined from $31,245 in the 2010 academic year to $25,760 in 2011.

Low-income families (earning $35,000 or less) reported increased college spending, from $17,404 in 2010 to $19,888 in 2011. That is a counter-intuitive finding, given the massive increase in need-based aid of recent years. The report suggests the increase could simply reflect that a broader share of survey respondents have low incomes.

Grants and scholarships cover 33 percent of all college spending, up from 23 percent a year ago. Forty-six percent of families receive grants, up from 30 percent in a single year.  Nearly half of middle-income families received grant aid.

Though Americans are wary of college spending, 90 percent of students say college is an investment in the future.

The share of families who “strongly agreed” with the statement that college is essential for earning (as opposed to learning) rose from 59 percent in 2010 to 70 percent in 2011.

. . . The share of students who said their primary motive for college was to earn more money rose sharply, a one-year jump from 61 percent to 75 percent.

Average percentage of total cost of attendance paid from each source:


Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

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