Rising costs and a slowing economy have resulted in fewer families being able to afford a college education in recent years. That's according to a new study from Sallie Mae. The survey, entitled How America Pays for College, shows that parents are now only contributing 27% toward total college costs, down from 37% in 2010. In addition, grants and scholarships are now the most common methods of college funding, accounting for 30% of college costs, while student borrowing is also up. Student loans now account for 18% of college costs on average, up from 14% in 2009.
The recession and its slow recovery bear the brunt of the blame for families having less to spend on higher education, but that's not the only factor. "We have seen, both here in Texas and across the country, increases in tuition and fees, so the bill for going to college has increased," says Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He tells KTRH that, despite those increases, Texas is still more affordable for a college education than many other states. "You can expect, with just tuition and fees alone, somewhere in the ballpark of about $8,000 per year for a typical public university, and for a community college about $3,000 to $4,000," he says. Texas is actually among the cheapest states in the country for the cost of community college.
As education costs go up, Chavez says there are things students and families can do to minimize how much they have to spend. "By making sure they only take those courses that are required, and they get in and out of college as quickly as possible, that can reduce debt load for the student over time." Nevertheless, he still argues that for most students, the overall cost of a college education is worth it. "Over the long term, the lifetime earnings that student are going to reap because of their post-secondary education, will more than outweigh the debt that they take on in the short or mid-term," he says.