Find out how families paid for college and their perceptions about the value of higher education

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Families paid slightly less for college last year, and covered the majority of costs out of pocket

Families spent an average of $25,313 for academic year 2021-22, down 4% from $26,373 in 2020-21

of families used income and savings to cover college costs

of families used scholarships and grants

of families used borrowed funds, including student loans

Share of college costs paid by each funding source

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75% of families were unaware the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens on October 1, potentially leaving thousands in first-come, first-served free money for college on the table

70% of families completed the FAFSA® for academic year 2021-2022

FAFSA® is the gateway for families to access more than $112 billion in grants, scholarships, and federal financial aid for higher education. States and colleges rely on information from the FAFSA® to determine need-based aid. 


FAFSA® completion rates have stabilized after a four-year decline

Reasons for not completing
the FAFSA® 

of families who didn’t file the FAFSA®
believed their income was too high
to qualify for any financial aid

had problems with the application
or thought it was too complicated

Students and their parents (88%) continue to believe college is an important investment and creates more opportunities

Most families (78%) are willing to stretch themselves financially to help the student experience those opportunities

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Most families want at least some in-person classes

While 75% of online learners rated their experience as good or excellent, the majority of families (78%) still prefer to have an in-person learning component

prefer in-person only learning

prefer hybrid learning, with some classes in-person and some online

Additional resources

How America Pays for College 2022 research report

How America Pays for College 2022 infographic

How America Pays for College 2022 news release


Join the conversation with #HowAmericaPays


How America Pays for College 2022 reports the results of online interviews Ipsos conducted in English between April 5, 2022 and May 4, 2022, with 953 parents of undergraduate students and 952 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 24. Data and years shown reflect the academic year July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022


FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid