New Research on How Families Are Paying for College During a Pandemic

Financial aid award letters arriving now: Families concerned about college affordability in 2021-2022

(Wilmington, DE) February 24, 2021 – With financial aid award letters arriving now, the COVID-19 pandemic has parents concerned about the affordability of college for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year. The recent College Ave Student Loans survey of 1,009 parents of college undergraduate students conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights™ found of those planning to help their child pay for college, approximately half (52%) said the pandemic will make it more difficult to pay this fall. Despite these challenges, the commitment to higher education remains steadfast: 93% of families agree obtaining a college degree is more important than ever.

What does paying for college in a pandemic look like? More challenging than in previous years according to 85% of families surveyed. Close to half (45%) of parents planning to help their child pay for college said the pandemic changed how they planned to pay, with 51% using more savings, 45% borrowing more in student loans, and 27% taking out a parent loan.

“The pandemic has presented new obstacles for families, yet as this survey highlights, families are incredibly resilient and determined to help their child obtain a higher education,” said Joe DePaulo, Co-Founder and CEO of College Ave Student Loans.

For families with higher education costs on the horizon, the survey results suggest keeping these tips in mind:

  • Anticipate spending more. Parents across the board reported college expenses being more than they expected, including college tuition and fees (81%), room and board / rent and food (77%), school activities and fees (61%) and books and supplies (57%).
  • Understand that savings may not cover it all. The majority of parents (78%) put money aside for their child’s education. However, only a small minority – 17% – said savings could cover the full cost. Many parents need to look at a variety of funding sources to pay for their child’s college education.
  • Search for scholarships. Two-thirds (67%) found it difficult to find college scholarships; however, grants and scholarships were the top method used to pay for college (69%), ahead of parent savings and income. One easy one to consider is the $1,000 monthly scholarship sweepstakes from College Ave.
  • Tune up your credit. Half (53%) plan to use student loans and about a quarter (26%) plan to use parent loans to fund their child’s education. Particularly if you think you may need private student loans in addition to federal, get a copy of your credit report and review your credit score. If you find errors, reach out to the credit reporting agency to address them. Credit history and credit score will typically impact whether a private student loan is approved as well as the interest rate.
  • Encourage your child to contribute. 69% of parents expect their child to help chip in for the cost of college. 52% expect their child to find a job while in college.
  • Maximize financial aid. Make sure you complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year your child attends college. This important form is the gateway to scholarships, grants, work-study and federal student loans. If your financial situation has substantially changed since last year, reach out to your school’s financial aid office for help and resources.
  • Likely you are balancing other financial commitments. Take comfort; you’re not alone. 58% parents are stressed about balancing their retirement and paying for college. And, many families have other financial obligations, too, including a mortgage (68%), auto loan (54%), credit card debt (44%) and personal loan (22%).

The survey also highlights that families are actively seeking clarity and information about the financial road ahead. Two-thirds (66%) of families wished more resources existed to help families plan and pay for college. For helpful content, savings strategies, and insight from college and personal finance experts, visit the College Ave Blog.

About the Survey

The College Ave Student Loans survey was and conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights™. The national online survey of parents of undergraduate students who attend a 4-year college or university at one of the campuses served by Barnes & Noble College had 1,009 respondents and was fielded in December 2020. 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 772 campus bookstores across the nation.

About College Ave Student Loans

College Ave Student Loans is simplifying the student loan experience so students can get on with what matters most: preparing for a bright future. As a fintech lending company with a sole focus on private student loans, we’re using technology and our deep industry expertise to connect families who need to cover education costs. By specializing in student loans, we are able to give customers the attention they deserve and deliver loans that are simple, clear, and personalized for the individual.

About Barnes & Noble College Barnes & Noble College, a Barnes & Noble Education company, is a leading operator of college bookstores in the United States. Barnes & Noble College currently operates 772 campus bookstores and the school-branded e-commerce sites for each store, serving more than 5 million college students and faculty nationwide. General information on Barnes & Noble College can be obtained by visiting the Company’s website:

Media Contacts:
Emily Hollenbeck, Duffy & Shanley, Inc., [email protected], (401) 278-4432


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