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Students and families aren’t letting uncertainty from COVID-19 stop them from pursuing their college education

Find out how families across the country are moving forward with their higher education plans during COVID-19 and how they pay for college.

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The majority of college students say they’re ready to get back to campus

The majority (61%) of college families believe COVID-19 will not have a long-term impact on their student’s education; 7% have decided to take time off or enroll in a different school.

The proportion of families who have a plan to pay for college is at an all-time high

have a plan in academic year 2019-20
That’s the highest percentage of planners in the 13 years of our study

44% had a plan in 2018-19

The vast majority of families (91%) agree higher education is an investment in the student’s future

believe college is part of the American Dream (up from 74% in academic year 2018-19)

believe the student will earn more money with a college degree

When it comes to paying for college, parents foot the lion’s share of the bill

Families spent an average of


on college in academic year 2019-20

More than one-third (37%) of families used a college savings account like a 529—up from 21% in AY 2018-19

Share of college costs paid by from each funding source

Scholarships and grants


of families used scholarships, making it the second biggest source of funding


used grants

   Planning tip

Use our Scholarship Search tool to find thousands of dollars in free money for college.

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Borrowed money

  • Borrowed money, including student loans, covered 21% of college costs
  • 34% of students borrowed to pay for college, covering 13% of costs
  • 20% of parents borrowed, covering 8% of costs
  • 46% of families with student loans make payments on them while the student is still in school

   Planning tip

Considering a student loan? See what your monthly payments might be.

Estimate your payments

Fewer families are filing the FAFSA®, which means they could be missing out on thousands of dollars in financial aid

Just 71% filed for academic year 2019-20—a decrease from 83% two years ago

The #1 reason given for not filing the FAFSA was that families believed they would n’t qualify for any aid (43%)

   Planning tip

Need help filing the FAFSA? Check out some tips and useful information that can make it easier.

Read our FAFSA guide

Additional resources

How America Pays for College 2020 research report
How America Pays for College 2020 infographic

Join the conversation with #HowAmericaPays

Ipsos conducted the How America Pays for College survey online, in English between March 30 and April 27, 2020.

Ipsos interviewed 1,996 undergraduate students and parents of undergraduate students from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii.

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