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Among Students Bound for College, Confusion Persists on Paying for It

Report: “studentPOLL”

Organizations: Art & Science Group and ACT

Summary: The latest iteration of “studentPOLL” asked a national sample of college-bound students who had taken the ACT about paying for college. The survey was conducted in February, after students had applied to college but before most admissions and financial-aid decisions had been made. Among other things, the survey found that:

  • Three-quarters of respondents agreed that rising college costs were out of control.
  • More than a third of respondents said they had used financial-aid or net-tuition calculators, but just 11 percent said they had used government tools like College Navigator or the College Scorecard.
  • Respondents were asked to estimate the average debt of college graduates. The mean provided by respondents was $42,033, well above the $28,400 average debt of those college graduates who borrow.
  • Asked to estimate their own debt, however, respondents who expected to borrow gave numbers much closer to the national average. And 72 percent of respondents said that colleges should be able to use revenue from tuition to support need-based aid.
  • Ninety percent of respondents said they expected to graduate in four years.

Bottom Line: Affordability is a big concern for college-bound students, but the survey found that, at this stage of the process, they “simply don’t have a firm grasp of some key issues related to college cost.”

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