Survey Finds 6 out of 10 Families’ Budgets Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Including Plans to Fund College

Latest College Ave Student Loans survey developed with finds that while financial uncertainty has affected many families, the majority remain optimistic on how to cover college costs

(Wilmington, DE) August 11, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unpredictable financial environment for many families. For 6 out of 10, that means changes to their household budget, according to the latest College Ave Student Loans survey of 1,141 parents of college students conducted by Barnes & Noble College InsightsSM. Despite the unexpected impacts, the majority (72%) of parents who plan to help pay for their child’s education are still confident about their overall payment plan.

College Ave surveyed parents in January and again this June with personal finance site to get a snapshot of how the pandemic has affected college financing plans. The survey found that while the approach to paying for college has changed since the beginning of the year, families still deeply value a higher education degree.

Impact of the pandemic on family finances

More than half of families (56%) said the pandemic has negatively affected their finances. Of those, 58% have had to dip into their savings more than expected, 43% delayed big spending purchases and 29% have relied more on credit cards. Many families have faced job uncertainty – 25% report a parent in the house has been furloughed, lost a job (14%) or has had to close a business temporarily or permanently (12%). Of those who will need to borrow more than previously planned as a result of the pandemic, nearly 3 in 4 (74%) said they will need to borrow at least $5,000 or more this year.

Changes in how families plan to cover college costs

The latest survey found the overwhelming majority of parents (92%) agree with the statement that a college degree is important for their child. Perhaps that’s why in June, and during difficult financial times, more parents say they are willing to help their child pay for college (95% vs. 83% in January) and invest in their child’s degree.

In the five-month timeframe between the surveys, the June survey also found the approach to paying for college changed. The recent survey found less families are relying on parental income, savings, and 529 accounts, and instead, are leaning more on grants and scholarships, student loans and the child pitching in by working.

Changes in how families plan to plan for college - info below

Changes in how families plan to pay for college: January 2020 vs. June 2020.
January 2020 – 70% regular income and savings
June 2020 – 60% regular income and savings (-10% change)
January 2020 – 59% grants and scholarships
June 2020 – 64% grants and scholarships (+5% change)
January 2020 – 45% 529 account
June 2020 – 38% 529 account (-7% change)
January 2020 – 42% student loans
June 2020 – 53% student loans (+11% change)
January 2020 – 28% child will work
June 2020 – 43% child will work (+15% change)
January 2020 – 18% parent loan
June 2020 – 21% parent loan (+3% change)
The College ave student loans survey were conducted by Barnes & Noble College insightsSM. The National online survey of parents with at least one child currently in college had 2,080 respondents in january 2020 and 1,141 respondents in June 2020.

Less common financial strategies used by families include money from a retirement account, personal loans, and credit cards. Overall, the survey highlights that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to financing a college education.

“During these unprecedented times, families who have children headed to college will need to come together and have open and honest conversations about the road ahead. Parents must keep in mind that while there are loans for college, there are no loans available for retirement. Anything they’re able to offer their child toward the cost of college will be welcome,” said Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoney. “Also, students must understand that working through college may be their best path forward, and they should leave no stone unturned when it comes to searching for and applying for scholarships and grants. For parents who might be feeling guilty about not contributing more to their child’s education, don’t. Understand that it’s okay for your child to work and take out an appropriate amount of loans, and you can help them guide them through these important first steps into adulthood.”

Tips for how to cover college costs during uncertain times include:

  • If you haven’t experienced a change in income, look to see where you might be able to make cuts to your budget on a monthly basis, and put that money towards your college fund, or college expenses.

  • If circumstances have dictated that you won’t be able to continue to save for college or contribute to college costs, start looking into student jobs that might appeal to your child, student loans, as well as grants and scholarships. Doing all this as early as possible will help erase some question marks, and make everyone feel more confident about the future.

  • In the years to come, more jobs than ever will be able to be done remotely, and to make ends meet, both students and parents may want to consider a remote side-gig, doing things like customer service, graphic design, social media work, and more. Even an additional $100 a month can be a welcome addition to any budget, and can mean a reduction in the amount of student loans taken out.

  • While some sticker prices for college and college activities are set in stone, some things can be negotiated, and in many cases, cheaper prices are available. For example, students who receive a scholarship offer for one year of tuition can request that their offer is extended, and in many cases, online textbooks are cheaper than their hardbound counterparts. There are myriad ways to keep it frugal you just have to keep an eye out, and never be afraid to ask.

“The pandemic has created financial uncertainty for many families,” said Joe DePaulo, Co-Founder and CEO of College Ave Student Loans. “However, the survey also points to the resilience of families and their determination. Even during difficult times, families believe in – and prioritize – finding a path to a college degree as they know a higher education can provide a better future for their children.”

For students and families looking for ways to navigate the financial road to college, explore the resources, research, guides and financial expert advice at: /.

About the Survey

The June College Ave Student Loans survey was developed with and conducted by Barnes & Noble College InsightsSM. The national online survey of parents of college students who attend a 4-year college or university at one of the campuses served by Barnes & Noble College had 1,141 respondents and was fielded in June 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.


HerMoney is a digital media company focused on improving the relationships women have with money. Our mission is to level the playing field for financial security, confidence and power with content that is welcoming, thought-provoking, bold, unbiased and always smart. Visit us at

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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