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Many families stretch themselves financially to pay for college; what value do they see that makes their education expense worthwhile?

Students attending college, and parents of those students, believe college is a worthwhile undertaking as shown by the How America Values College 2018 survey results. The belief in the value of college is so strong that a sizable majority of students (85%) and parents (81%) say they are willing to stretch themselves financially to obtain the best opportunity for the student’s future. Families from low- (81%), middle- (83%), and high-income (84%) households are equally willing to stretch financially for the opportunity of college.

A clear majority of both parents and students believe college is key to a successful financial future. Nine in 10 (90%) agree college is an investment in the student, and more than 8 in 10 (83%) agree the student will earn more money with a college degree. Three-quarters (77%) agree that a college degree is more important now than it used to be.

For many, though, college is not just about finding a career and higher earnings. In fact, 88 percent of students and 82 percent of parents say they always expected the student to attend college regardless of his or her major or course of study. More than three-quarters of students and parents (77%) agree college is part of the American Dream, and more than half (52%) agree the student would attend for the intellectual and social benefits regardless of whether he or she earned more money with a degree.

Bargain, fair, or overpriced?

Most families feel the value of the education they are receiving from their student’s college is worth the price they are paying. More than one-third of families (36%) feel they are paying a fair price for the education the student is receiving. Parents are more likely than students to see college as priced right (42% vs 31%) than to feel either they are getting more than they expected or that it cost too much.

Value of education compared to price

Nearly one-third of families feel they are getting a deal: 10 percent say their education is somewhat of a bargain and another 20 percent say their education is an excellent value, worth every penny.

On the other end of the spectrum, one-third of families feel the price is too high: 22 percent say the school is somewhat overvalued and an additional 11 percent say it is significantly overpriced. Students are more likely than parents to feel they are paying too much for their education (37% vs 30%).

Families with students who attend two-year public colleges or community colleges are more likely to feel their education is a bargain (37%) or priced fairly (45%), while students at four-year public and private colleges are more likely to say college is overpriced (35% and 40%, respectively).

Find out more about How America Values College 2018.

How families are making college more affordable
Sticker price? Work-study? Free tuition? How well do you understand paying-for-college terminology
The advantages of planning how to pay for college
Top 10 things college students wish they’d known before enrolling
Choosing a college that’s the right fit
College majors and salary expectations


About this study
How America Values College 2018, a national study by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, explores how families of undergraduates regard the value of higher education, the factors that influence their choice of schools, and the steps they’re taking to make college affordable.

Source: How America Values College 2018, from Sallie Mae and Ipsos.