College-bound high school students are saving and sacrificing more, making economical college choices and becoming more knowledgeable about the costs of borrowing, according to a new survey. 

The survey of 16- and 17-year olds headed for higher education by the College Savings Foundation, found that nearly three quarters (72 percent) of the high school students surveyed think it's their responsibility to help fund their college education, and 65 percent are planning to use their own funds to pay for college, reinforcing key trends revealed in the 2010 survey.

Yet this year students expect to contribute more of their own funds:  58 percent will cover more than one-quarter of their college costs, compared to 52 percent last year, and nearly one-in-five (18 percent) will contribute more than half of their college costs – up from 12 percent last year. 

How will they get there? Seventy-three percent have decided that they want to save and nearly half—48 percent — of the students have already started, each three points higher than last year.

But the big jump occurs in the actual dollars saved: 69 percent of those students who are saving have already saved more than $1,000—up from 62 percent one year ago. Roughly one quarter—23 percent—have amassed more than $5,000—up from 19 percent last year.

A key finding was that more students are setting their sights on affordable four-year schools. Over half, 51 percent, are looking at public colleges, up from 44 percent last year and pulling from both four-year private schools and community colleges.  Sixteen percent are considering private universities (down from 18 percent last year); and 19 percent are looking at community colleges, down from 22 percent.

"Today's high school students are tackling the escalating costs of college by saving and becoming more educated about their costs and choices," said CSF chairman Roger Michaud.

The costs of college are foremost in the students' minds: 79 percent said that the costs of school influenced their further education plans, similar to 77 percent last year; and 83 percent of those said that costs are a factor in which college they plan to attend (86% in 2010)

To meet those costs, students are supplementing their own funds with financial aid and student loans. Forty-seven percent definitely expect to receive financial aid, with an additional 34 percent possibly expecting it, (totaling 81 percent versus 85 percent last year).

Although somewhat fewer students are expecting to borrow for college (62 percent versus 66 percent last year), they are still worried about it:  92 percent of borrowers are concerned about their debt burden after college, similar to last year.

Meanwhile, high school students are working on a number of fronts to enhance their college savings:

• 72 percent would rather receive money for education on special occasions rather than tangible gifts, as in last year's survey.  
• 47 percent thought that friends or relatives might help with their college costs, up from 42 percent.
• Over half, 52 percent, of those who have decided to save have gotten jobs to help, up from 48 percent last year.
• The number of high school savers willing to forgo things like electronics, cars or vacations jumped to 66 percent in 2011, compared to 54 percent in 2010.  
• Twice as many high school savers are using 529 college savings plans than last year (16 percent versus 8 percent); and fewer are using plain vanilla savings accounts (68 percent, down from 80 percent last year).

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