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New Paths to College Financing Include 2-Year Schools, Fewer Loans

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Families continue to get creative on paying for college, including putting enrollment at two-year colleges at what's at least a seven-year high, according to the study How America Pays for College 2014 from Sallie Mae and Ipsos.

In the study, 98% of families still call college a "worthwhile investment," but Americans are spending more than ever on out of pocket to cover tuition and campus living costs. Student loan borrowing rates are at their lowest levels since 2009 -- out of pocket costs stand at 42%, while grants and scholarships cover 31%. Student loans account for 22% of student loan spending, while relatives and friends paid 4% of college costs.

"American families truly believe in the value of higher education" says Cliff Young, president of Ipsos Public Affairs. "One size, though, does not fit all. Indeed, families are very creative and diverse in their solutions to paying for college. Our personal analysis really shows the wide range of family-specific choices."

Aside from the rise in two-year college enrollments, attending in-state colleges and universities were on the upswing, and living close to home was cited as another big cost-cutting factor.

Some details:

  • Enrollment in two-year public colleges was the highest since the survey began (34%, up from 30% last year).
  • More students were choosing in-state schools (69%).
  • Spenders were cutting back on entertainment (66%).
  • Students were living closer to home (61%) or at home (54%).
  • Only 38% of families had a plan for paying for all years of college before freshman year began.

If anything, families are looking at college spending as something of a, well, family affair. 

"Families are committed to college and are making deliberate decisions to reduce how much they pay for it," says Raymond Quinlan, chairman and chief executive at Sallie Mae. "The majority of families approach paying for college as a shared responsibility, and with reliance on so many sources of funds, we see that it is. Planning for this critical investment brings greater peace of mind and more choice."

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