Planning ahead for the full cost of college has its benefits, including more options when deciding which school to attend, less student borrowing, a clearer idea of ways to pay for college, and greater peace of mind.
According to How America Values College 2018 most families with a student attending college say they did not develop a plan for how to pay for all years of school before the student enrolled. Two-fifths of families (40%) say they had a plan, while three-fifths did not.
What do families typically do to help plan for college costs? For many, planning is inextricably linked to saving: 57 percent of families had saved some money for college before their student began. In addition, families reported a number of other planning activities:
- Creating a budget that identifies amounts the family might use from savings, scholarships, financial aid, and/or student loans (46%)
- Researching college costs and financial aid eligibility (43%)
- Taking Advanced Placement courses or dual community college enrollment while in high school (34%)
- Investing in the student’s skills or talents to increase the likelihood of winning scholarships for college (30%)
- Limiting college choices to those within a certain price range (14%)
Families in which the parents attended college (43%) and those with students who attend four-year schools (42%) are more likely to have planned for all years of college.
Among the families who didn’t plan, two-fifths (41%) aren’t worried. Their strategy is to figure out how they will pay for each year as it comes. Most of those without a plan, however, feel some apprehension. More than one-third (36%) regret not planning and wish they had done a better job of preparing to pay for college.
Parents’ worries about paying for future years of college
Lack of planning can contribute to an unexpected and discouraging college experience. While paying for college this year, parents worry about economic conditions outside their control as they look ahead to paying the next year's college bills.
The biggest worry shared by nearly three-quarters of parents (73%) is that college costs will increase. Nearly two-thirds of parents worry that less scholarship and college grant money will be available to upperclassmen and that loan rates will increase (both 64%). Half of parents worry that their funding will run out before their child finishes college (50%) or that the value of their savings and investments will decrease (48%).
A similar proportion of planning and non-planning parents worry about less scholarship and grant money being available, and the value of their savings declining. Fewer parents with a plan than those without a plan, however, worry about tuition increasing, loan rates increasing, or funds depleting.
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?
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.