How America Pays for College 2022

Sallie Mae’s national study of college students and parents
Conducted by Ipsos

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

Read the full research report

View the infographic

Read the news release

  Join the discussion at #HowAmericaPays

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

87 percent

of families used income and savings to cover college costs

73 percent

of families used scholarships and grants

41 percent

of families used borrowed funds, including student loans

Share of college costs paid by each funding source

Donut chart of percentage of overall college costs by funding source to where Scholarships and grants equal 25 percent, Parent income and savings equal 45 percent,  Parent borrowing equal 9 percent, Student income and savings equal 8 percent, Student borrowing equal 11 percent, and Relatives and friends equal 2 percent.

Paying for college tip

Get matched to scholarships based on your skills, activities, and interests with our free Scholarship Search, which gives you access to more than 6 million scholarship opportunities, worth up $30 billion!

Find college scholarships

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

Bar chart of FAFSA completion rates, annually from 2016-2022 showing that rates have decreased each year
55% of families know that all students are eligible to submit the FAFSA

Reasons for not completing
the FAFSA® 

36 percent

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

17 percent

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

89% of families took steps to make college more affordable

Paying for college tip

Our College Planning CalculatorSM shows you the full cost of college by factoring in your savings, scholarships, grants, loans, and expenses, so you can create a plan to pay with confidence.

Create a plan

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

39 percent

prefer in-person only learning

39 percent

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