Sallie Mae's fifth annual "How America Pays For College" for 2012 indicates that more students are paying their own way through school this year than in those previous.
The study analyzes young peoples' savings accounts, incomes and pending loans. IPSOS, a market research company, conducted the study via telephone in April and May of 2012. They conducted a total of 801 students between the ages of 18 and 24; 800 parents were interviewed, as well.
Findings suggest that four years ago, students paid for roughly 24% of their education, in total. In 2012, that number has risen to 30%. Four years ago, parents paid 45% of the cost of their children's tuition. The number fell to 37% in 2012. In spite of the recent cuts to financial aid and scholarships sustained by the education system, the total extent to which students are relying on grants and scholarships to fund their education rose from 25% to 29% since 2008.
As U.S. college students' financial responsibility increases, the instances of students taking on more debt than they can handle in terms of loans decreases. More often than ever, students are choosing to break their teeth at community colleges, early in their undergraduate career, and then transferring to more expensive schools. Students are also choosing to live at home more than ever before. Students who choose either dormitories or student apartments are more likely to live with roommates, according to Sallie Mae.
The student loan crisis undoubtedly contributed to many of the changes detailed in Sallie Mae's report. A financial crunch is by no means a time to rejoice, but an optimist could argue that at least the $1 trillion number seems to have produced one positive outcome: American college students have gone a significant distance towards "waking up" to the realities of their financial situation. The numbers have officially become too egregious to ignore.
In tandem with this heightening financial awareness among college students, the federal government offers new and extremely useful tools to manage loans. The Department of Consumer Finance recently introduced a beta of their "Paying For College" tool; the US Department of Education offers one called "Financial Awareness Counseling."