Remember when you got your college acceptance letter in the mail? Your first emotion was probably joy — and your second was likely panic, as it was time to get real about how you were going to foot the price tag.
If you're like me, you borrowed the max in student loans first, then kept your fingers crossed that savings from your part-time job and your school's financial aid office could help cover the rest. Fortunately, things seem to have gotten a little better for today's students, according to Sallie Mae's latest How America Pays for College report, which surveys undergraduates and their parents to get insight on how families afford college.
According to Sallie Mae, the biggest share of students' college costs are being covered by scholarships and grants — and at the highest percentage since the annual report was started a decade ago. Here's the full breakdown:
- 35% of costs are covered by scholarships and grants
- 23% are covered by parents' income and savings
- 19% by student loans
- 11% by students' income and savings
- 8% by parent loans
- 4% by help from relatives and friends
The average amount families spent on college in the 2016 to 2017 academic year was $23,757, although spending was by far highest in the Northeast at $35,431, and the lowest in the West, at $19,181.
The numbers also reveal that both parents and kids are sharing the burden of college costs almost equally, while 84% of students with loans say they expect to be solely responsible for paying them back (who says millennials are spoiled?).
While it's great that schools are stepping up to the plate when it comes to providing financial aid, based on the average college price tag families will still likely need help covering the full cost of a diploma. If you're in that situation, it might help to first get familiar with how colleges calculate a financial aid package, and then write the school's financial aid office to plead your case (here's what to include in your letter) — after all, you don't get what you don't ask for.