While nine out of ten families agree college is an investment in the student (90%), and eight in ten agree they are willing to stretch themselves financially to make it happen (83%), they also take deliberate actions to make it more affordable. How America Values College 2018 demonstrates families’ resourcefulness in generating money for college and reducing college expenses.
Three-quarters of students (78%) work while attending college to help pay for school. Forty-five percent work year-round, 22 percent work only during school breaks, and 11 percent work during the term but not during breaks. Nearly three-fifths of students (58%) say they increased their work hours in 2017-18, earning more funds to pay for college.
Finding ways to cut costs
Two-thirds of students (67%) reduced their personal spending, reassigning money previously spent on entertainment, vacations, or other non-necessities to put toward college. Some students say they sold items they no longer needed; some bought used text books and then re-sold them when finished or rented electronic books to save money.
Many parents contribute to making college more affordable: one-third (32%) worked more hours and half (49%) reduced their personal spending.
Other resources families use include filing for higher education tax credits and/or deductions (44%) and taking advantage of military benefits (including ROTC or National Guard) to help pay for college (8%).
Outside of earning or reallocating money for college, students’ enrollment choices help make college more affordable by
- Changing majors to pursue a field of study that is more marketable (21%)
- Earning their degree over a shorter period of time to reduce total costs or begin working in their field sooner (24%)
- Attending part time to reduce immediate costs or to allow more time to work (19%)
- Taking classes online because they’re less expensive (15%)
Managing the cost of living
Nearly two-fifths (37%) of students live at home with parents or other relatives while attending college.
- A small portion (6%) pay some amount of rent but most students don’t (31%), thus saving on the direct cost of housing payments.
- Students attending community college (72%) and students attending college part time (75%) are more likely to live at home. Hispanic students are also more likely than white or black students to live at home (53% vs 33% and 43%, respectively).
One-third of students (33%) live on campus.
- Freshmen (41%) are more likely than upperclassmen to live on campus, as are students who attend four-year private colleges (47%).
- Students whose parents had attended college are more likely to live on campus than first-generation college students (34% vs 26%).
- A few upperclassmen work as resident assistants in exchange for living in a dorm for free.
Nearly one-third of students (31%) live away from home but off-campus. Some live alone (6%) but most have roommates or housemates (25%), sharing rent and other housing expenses, which can be a good way to reduce cost of living. Students who live in the Northeast region (15%) and black students (15%) are less likely to live off campus. Upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) are more likely to live off-campus than underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) (44% vs 21%).
Importantly, affordability can also be achieved with financial aid. Last year, more than 80% of families filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which provides access to more than $150 billion in federal aid programs, including college grants, work-study, and student loans.
Find out more about How America Values College 2018.
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
Appreciating the value and benefits of a college education
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.