Families are increasingly relying on grants and scholarships to pay for spiralling tuitions at colleges and universities in the aftermath of the recession, according to a new study.
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Grants and scholarships covered 33 percent of college costs in 2010-2011, up from 23 percent the previous year, according to a study by student loan provider Sallie Mae and the research firm Ipsos Public Affairs. The percentage of families who received grants and scholarships grew substantially, from 55 percent in 2009-2010 to 67 percent in 2010-2011. The majority of the increase occurred among middle- and high-income families.
More families filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, jumping from 72 percent in the 2010 report to 80 percent in the 2011 report. Most of the increase came from middle- and high-income families.
The study found that virtually all the 1,600 families interviewed said they were adopting cost-savings measures, such as attending lower-cost colleges, living at home, or going to school part time. On average, families reported paying 9 percent less for college than in the previous year. Over the past four years, families have shifted away from four-year public schools towards less-expensive two-year public schools. Even high-income families pulled back from their 2010 levels of spending, with a sharp decline in how much parents pay from income and savings this year.
“It is not at all surprising that American families are increasingly cost-conscious, especially considering the severe economic crisis, together with rising tuition costs,” said Ipsos Public Affairs managing director Clifford Young, a lead author of the study. “Most strikingly, this all suggests the immutable nature of higher education as a core American value even while families cite increasingly practical reasons to pursue their college goals.”
Parent sources, including savings, income and loans, funded the largest segment of the average family’s total college expenses, at 37 percent. Students assumed direct responsibility for about one-quarter of the total cost of college, contributing 11 percent from income and savings and 15 percent through borrowing.
In one-third of families, the student borrowed money to pay for college, typically through the federal student loan program, at an average of $6,983. In addition, students used private education loans in 9 percent of the families surveyed.