Top Ways College Is Paid For: Sallie Mae

Student loan use falls as out-of-pocket contributions rise in 2014 after three years of decreases

One way families are saving on college: Enrollment rose in two-year schools and declined in four-year schools. One way families are saving on college: Enrollment rose in two-year schools and declined in four-year schools.

With student loan debt soaring to $1.2 trillion, more American families are reaching into their pockets to foot college tuition bills and borrowing less, according to a just-released study by Sallie Mae.

Sallie Mae’s annual study, How America Pays for College, released Thursday, found that out-of-pocket contributions, particularly from parents, rose in 2014 after three years of decreases, with parent income and savings paying 30% of college costs in 2014, and student income and savings paying for 12%.

The survey was conducted in 2014 and covers amounts paid in academic year 2013-14.

Almost one-fifth of families paid completely with out-of-pocket funds, but the majority sought financial aid, the study found. Eighty-one percent of families filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), while 61% of families reported using some grant or scholarship money, which covered an average of 31% of college costs.

Borrowed funds paid 22% of costs in 2014, a decline from 27% in the prior two years — with both parents and students borrowing less. Thirty-five percent of families borrowed something to pay for college.

The largest percentage of college funding came from grants and scholarships at 31%, while 30% of college expenses were paid out of parent income and savings. Student borrowing and savings accounted for 15% of funds used.

The 2014 study alsofound that average spending on college this past academic year, $20,882, is consistent with amounts paid the three prior years after a peak in reported spending of $24,097 in 2010.

Families also reported the highest enrollment in two-year public colleges since the survey began, 34% in 2013-14 from 30% the previous year. At the same time, enrollment at four-year public colleges declined from 46% to 41%.

The average yearly amount spent for two-year public schools was $11,012, a slight increase of $344 from the prior year but $10,060 less than 4-year public schools, the study found. The average amount spent for 4-year public institutions was $21,072, an increase of $1,276 from 2013 and similar to the reported spending in 2012.

Families also continue to believe in the value of a college education: 98% agree (with 84% strongly agreeing) that college is an investment in the student’s future.

Read on to see which funding sources the typical low-income, middle-income and high-income family used to pay for college.

Marching band at the University of Minnesota.

How the Typical Low-Income Family Paid for College in 2013-14

Grants & Scholarships: 45%

Parent income and savings: 20%

Student income and savings: 15%

Student borrowing: 14%

Parent borrowing, relatives and friends: 3%

The University of Chicago.

How the Typical Middle-Income Family Paid for College in 2013-14

Grants & Scholarships: 31%

Parent income and saving: 25%

Student borrowing: 18%

Student income and saving: 12%

Parent borrowing: 8%

Relatives and friends: 5%

The Yale coat of arms.

How the Typical High-Income Family Paid for College in 2013-14

Parent income and saving: 51%

Grants and scholarships: 16%

Student borrowing: 10%

Parent borrowing/student income and saving: 9%

Relatives and friends: 5%

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