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Strategies to Make College More Affordable

hands holding pennies and sign reading college fund

With the price of higher education still on an upward trajectory, families are looking for ways to make college more affordable. According to “How America Pays for College,” a report by Sallie Mae, the average American family spent $23,757 on college costs in 2017, which is a 38 percent increase over 10 years ago. Here are some ways families are affording or reducing their college costs:

  • Live at home. The report found 50% of students live with their parents or relatives.
  • Cut the pricey top picks. Nearly 70% of families eliminated colleges during the application process due to their high price tags, up from 58% in 2008. About 73% are choosing an in-state school.
  • Take a student job. At least 76% the students surveyed reported planned to work while in college, with 55% working year-round.
  • Finish quicker. Nearly 26% of students enrolled in accelerated courses while in high school to pay for fewer semesters in college.
  • Use grants and scholarships. For most families, the affordability of going to college is very much dependent on finding free money for tuition. In 2017, seven out of ten families sought out grants and scholarships. Families reported covering about 35% of their school bills with grants and scholarships—the biggest portion of their payment sources. About 87% of these scholarships come from the schools.
  • Start a college-savings plan. In 2016-17, 13% of families used the 529 tax-advantaged college-savings plan, with an average amount of $10,031.
  • Borrow some of all of the cost. Over 40% of families resorted to borrowed funds to pay for all or part of college expenses. Students borrowed more frequently than parents. Families who borrowed were more likely to attend a private college and attend an out-of-state college.  White Sands FCU offers the Smart Option Student Loan by Sallie Mae®.