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Americans give pricey colleges the cold shoulder

To cut costs more students are living at home and picking two-year programs and in-state schools.

By MSN Money producer Aug 15, 2014 2:46PM

Diploma, mortarboard cap and cash © zimmytws/Getty ImagesBy Katie Simon, LearnVest  LearnVest


A college education is supposedly more valuable than ever -- so families are sacrificing everything to make sure their kids can attend their dream schools, right?


Not quite.


Many families are choosing to forego those dream schools in favor of more affordable options. In fact, over two-thirds of students and parents dismiss certain college choices because they’re too expensive. That's a big increase from 2009 when, even at the height of a recession, only 56 percent of families said "no" because of cost.


According to a study by Sallie Mae, 34 percent of families surveyed chose two-year programs, cutting the cost of school by nearly half, from an average $21,072 per year at a four-year institution to $11,012 per year at a two-year college. Meanwhile, 69 percent of families are taking advantage of discounted tuition at in-state schools.


Even beyond choosing schools with lower tuitions, families are finding other ways to make the college experience more affordable. The survey found that the majority of students choose to live at home while attending school -– 54 percent in 2014, compared with 43 percent four years ago. Meanwhile, 41 percent of those not living at home would bunk with a roommate to save more.


Perhaps as a result of horror stories about student debt, families are also looking for ways to reduce the amount they borrow. In order to pay more out-of-pocket, two-thirds of families said they’d cut back on entertainment spending, and 19 percent of parents were willing to work more. Nearly half of students would work more to help afford college.


Before you start the college conversation with your student, check out LearnVest’s top tips for talking to kids about paying for school -- like broaching the topic early and consulting an expert in financial planning.


More from LearnVest



Aug 18, 2014 11:25AM

Rather than using college as a way for students to get a trade or a vocation we need to revise high school so that students can have an apprenticeship or a vocational education. We have forgotten that average doesn't mean stupid and that college is not for everyone. No one who doesn't want to go to college should be forced into it because our educational system fails to equip him or her with the skills for finding and keeping a decent job. This is part of what the common core is about. We need to expand our definition of a good high school education back to what it was in the mid 20th century: one that allowed people to hold responsible positions and let them have a good middle class life.

I have medical school debt, but if I can't pay back my student loans it's my own fault. Even if I'm going to be paying them off for 30 years they will be paid off. I may not have an Audi or Mercedes but I have a job that I love and enough coin to drive a used Toyota, insure it for cheap ($25/month at Insurance Panda) and take care of my family. I'm sorry that I'm not sorry that the average American can't have a luxury vehicle.

Oh yeah, and don't get a liberal arts degree!

Aug 17, 2014 11:07AM

I am sacrificing everything.  My daughter's education is costing me a fortune.  I went to a state school.  What a mistake.

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