College Ave Survey Reveals How College Students and Their Families Finance a Higher Education

Survey finds changes in borrowing, merit aid, and income and savings over the past few years 61% of college students report inflation has affected their saving and spending habits

(Wilmington, DEL) April 25, 2023 — A snapshot of how students and families pay for college shows fluctuations over the past four years. Borrowing for college is on the rise, while merit aid and use of personal income and savings is falling, according to the annual College Ave Student Loans survey of 1,083 college students at four-year universities conducted with Barnes & Noble College Insights. Since 2019, use of merit aid and parent’s savings and income has dropped by double digits, while federal student loans rose to the second most used method, its highest since 2019.

The Top 5 Methods Used to Pay for College
Merit Aid (scholarships and grants)
Federal student loans
Parent savings and/or income
Student’s savings and/or income
Private student loans


The survey also found college affordability is top of mind for the majority of students (57%). Despite concerns around college costs, students in 2023 are invested, with most students reporting that a college degree is crucial for their future (81%).

“Over the years, we’ve seen how the mix of methods families use to pay for college can shift,” said Joe DePaulo, Co-Founder and CEO of College Ave Student Loans. “One thing remains consistent: students and their families value an investment in higher education and its promise for a brighter future.”

The personal finance habits of college students

The College Ave survey also looked at the personal financial habits of college students. College students are not immune to inflation, with 61% saying it has negatively impacted their saving and spending habits. “Broke,” “stressful,” and “saving,” were the top three words college students’ associated with their finances, suggesting that even though students may feel stressed about their finances, they still understand the importance of saving.

In fact, while living on a college student’s budget can be difficult, many are starting adult lives on strong financial footing. The majority of college students (71%) report they have a personal financial goal they are working towards, 60% have a job, and half (50%) keep a personal budget. In addition, 44% report saving in college while 14% also invest.

Students and student loan borrowing

Students have a strong basic knowledge of student loans – 79% of those who have student loans understand that they will pay more back than they borrowed. However, they are worried about repaying the loans – 69% are concerned the student loan payment may be more than they anticipated and less than half (47%) feel confident in their ability to pay back them back.

How parents can help

For parents with upcoming college freshman or current college students, College Ave offers the following tips:

  • Talk money with your child. The majority of students report personal finance education came from their parents (73%). It outranked online research (57%) and school classes (46%). In addition to learning how to do laundry and make meals, help your child learn to set up a budget, pay bills, and manage credit before they head off to college.
  • Set a realistic (parent) budget. The survey found that in addition to helping pay for college tuition and housing costs, parents also contribute to their child’s phone bill (65%), health insurance (61%), food and groceries (42%), cable and internet bill (35%) and transportation (32%). Look at your own budget and be realistic on which college expenses you can afford and where you may want to ask your child to chip in.
  • Make a plan to repay. 61% of students who had student loans and expected to have student loan debt when they graduate did not know or weren’t sure what their student loan bill would be upon graduation. Help your child understand how interest rates work, the total cost of the loan, estimate their monthly payments, and a plan on how they will repay it upon graduation.
  • Look at the big picture. While college students ranked the cost of college as their top concern (57%), rounding out the top four were mental health (54%), finding a job after graduation (54%) and grades (53%). Help set your child up for success by encouraging them to reach out to resources and trusted people when they need support.

For more resources and tips on how to plan and pay for college, visit:

About College Ave Student Loans
College Ave Student Loans started with a big vision and a simple mission – take the stress out of paying for college so students can focus on preparing for a bright future. Now a leading fintech lending company, College Ave remains committed to using best-in-class technology and deep industry expertise to deliver practical and personal solutions that give young adults a running start on their roads to financial success. We offer best in class products with competitive rates and a customer-friendly experience from start to finish. Visit:

About the Survey

The College Ave Student Loans survey was conducted by Barnes & Noble College InsightsTM. The national online survey of undergraduate students who attend a 4-year college or university at one of the campuses served by Barnes & Noble College had 1,083 respondents and was fielded in March 2023. Last year, Barnes & Noble College Insights conducted more than 50 research studies and 100+ survey polls of students, faculty and parents that interact with one of its more than 770+ campus bookstores across the nation.

Media Contacts:
Katie Jacobs, College Ave Student Loans, [email protected], (302) 684-6066
Emily Hollenbeck, Duffy & Shanley, Inc., [email protected], (401) 278-4432


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