A March 2017 Student Panel monthly survey shows last year’s trend on student finances is still in force: A significant number of college students manage to starve off debt by tapping into a variety of sources to pay for their education and living expenses, including grants/scholarships and working.
At present, 38% of all students said they have no debt from loans, although only 27% of them expect to still be loan-free by the time they graduate, indicating some expect to borrow before they’re done with school, whether through a student loan program, private bank loan, or a loan from friends or family. Once they have a diploma, only 24% (which includes some in graduate/professional programs) said they’ll owe more than $30,000.
However, students aren’t relying solely on loans to get them through school. In fact, the majority of students said they receive grants and scholarships they don’t need to pay back—56% from governmental or institutional sources, 17% from private sources—although younger students reap a bigger share than older students. Almost 90% of students apply their financial aid to tuition, 51% to course materials, and 49% to room and board or rent.
Almost all students of traditional age (under 25) indicated that they are helped financially to some degree by their parents or other family members. Older students are less likely to have such support, not surprisingly, but some are able to take advantage of veterans benefits, employer reimbursements, or tax credits and deductions to cover some costs.
Most college students said think they’re able to handle their personal finances, with just 12% describing their money management skills as “poor” or “terrible.” But the ability to pay for necessary bills such as housing and food is often on their minds, with 71% admitting to varying levels of concern about it. Even more, some 85% are worried about whether they’ll be able to cover such expenses a year after they graduate.