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Most families and students believe a college degree is worth the investment, and most are willing to push themselves financially to make it happen.
According to the joint national study, “How America Values College 2018,” by Sallie Mae and Ipsos, an independent global market research company, it found that most families believe college is worth the cost. For the 2017-2018 school year, the average cost of college – including all costs – is $50,900 at a private four-year not-for-profit school.
In all, 66 percent of respondents think they are getting a good value for the price paid for college. That breaks down into 36 percent who believe they are paying a fair price, 20 percent who feel they’re getting an excellent value, followed by 10 percent who say they’re getting a bargain.
In addition, 77 percent of families believe going to college fulfills the American Dream, while 90 percent agree college is an investment in the student.
Meanwhile, 83 percent of families believe students will earn greater money with a college degree, with an expectation of a median post-college salary starting between $40,000 to $59,000. And 77 percent of students and their parents believe having a college degree is even more important than it used to be.
As for the factors families consider when researching colleges, cost was the top one (78 percent), followed by academics (77 percent), and personal preferences (63 percent).
Steps Toward Affordability
The survey also asked about affordability, including how families and students who are stretched financially are making it work.
For students, 45 percent work year-round to earn money for school while 37 percent have cut housing costs by living at home with family. Other ways students are saving money include 67 percent are cutting back on their spending, while 24 percent are taking more classes during a shorter time period as a way to graduate quicker and decrease costs.
As for families planning and paying for college, there is still a lot of confusion with paying-for-college jargon. According to the study, when families had been asked true or false questions about this type of terminology, 42 percent mistakenly believed work-study funds are automatic. Meanwhile, 21 percent had a false impression that “free tuition” meant college is really free, and 19 percent believe sticker price is what they will pay for college.
Another study recently showed that financial aid award letters are often not as comprehensive or clear about the cost to attend a college or what the family is expected to pay. That means families and students need to be proactive about communicating with the school’s financial aid office and make sure they have a clear picture of their financial commitment.
Author: Debbie Baratz
Debbie Baratz has written about topics including personal finance, financial markets, and banking. And as a media relations professional, she spent 10+ years working at not-for-profit, private, and publicly-traded financial institutions. When Debbie isn’t working, she can be found working out, reading, or traveling.