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A graduate wears a cap with 'Free at Last' written on it as Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the commencement ceremony for Cypress Bay High School graduates on June 4, 2012 in Miami, Florida.

Kai Ryssdal: Just 'cause college students and their parents don't have enough to worry about, there's this today: New evidence that the costs of higher education are taking their toll. A study from the student loan giant Sallie Mae that says more families are choosing less expensive schools. Even as tuitions and fees went up, families spent 5 percent less on college last year, and students themselves are picking up more of the tab.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.


Amy Scott: Sarah Ducich is one of the survey’s authors. She says there’s a misconception that families will keep on paying whatever colleges charge. But with tuition rising as family incomes decline, that’s changing.

 Sarah Ducich: People are willing to stretch a great deal to meet the cost of college, but there is a limit to that, and they’re going to send their students to schools that they can afford.

According to Sallie Mae, more families considered cost in their college decisions last school year, and they spent 5 percent less, on average. More than half of students saved money by living at home, instead of on campus -- that’s up 9 percent from the year before -- and more of them opted for community college.

Lauren Asher: Students and families are rightly concerned about rising costs.

Lauren Asher is president of the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success. She says some of the things families do to save on college can backfire.

Asher: Going to school part time, or working long hours, or going to a school that’s less selective than you’re qualified for, can all actually reduce your chances of completion.

For 18-to-24-year-old students, parents are still footing the biggest share of the college bill. But students paid 30 percent last year -- up from 26 percent the year before.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy advises families on paying for college.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy: I think it makes children appreciate college more if they do have some responsibility to pay.

And she says most of them do -- about two-thirds of students leave college with debt.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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