Nearly 70% of Parents and Students Surveyed Expect to Pay More Than $75,000 for a 4-Year Degree

Posted By Terri Williams on April 22, 2016 at 11:52 am
Nearly 70% of Parents and Students Surveyed Expect to Pay More Than $75,000 for a 4-Year Degree

Incoming college students – and their parents – have high hopes and great expectations regarding the benefits of a college degree. However, they’re also anxious and stressed about the application process and the huge financial debt they’ll likely incur.

The Princeton Review 2016 College Hopes and Worries Survey Report provides a window into the perceptions, concerns, and expectations of prospective college students and their parents as they navigate the application and financial aid process.

Below are selected questions and responses from the report:

#1:  How many colleges will you (or your child) apply to?

48% 5 to 8 colleges
32% 1 to 4 colleges
26% 9 or more colleges
19% 9 to 12 colleges


#2:  What is/will be the toughest part of your (or your child’s) college application process?

37% Taking SAT, ACT, or AP exams
32% Completing applications for admission and financial aid
22% Waiting for decision letters: choosing which college to attend
9% Researching colleges: choosing schools to apply to


#3:  What do you estimate your (or your child’s) college degree will cost, including 4 years of tuition, room and board, fees, books, and other expenses?

41% More than $100,000
25% $75,000 to $100,000
19% $50,000 to $75,000
10% $25,000 to $50,000
  5% Less than $25,000


#4:  How necessary will financial aid (education loans, scholarships, or grants) be to your (or your child’s) college education?

65% Extremely
22% Very
11% Somewhat
 1% Not at all


#5:  What’s your biggest concern about applying to or attending college?

39% Level of debt I (or my child) will take on to pay for the degree
32% Will get into first-choice college, but won’t be able to attend due to high cost and/or insufficient financial aid
22% Won’t get into first-choice college
  7% Will attend a college I (or my child) may not be happy about


#6:  When it comes to choosing which college you (or your child) will attend, which of the following do you think it is most likely to be?

41% College with the best program for my (or my child’s) career interests
41% College that will be the best overall fit
  9% College that will be the most affordable
  9% College with the best academic reputation


#7: What will be the biggest benefit of attending college and receiving a college diploma?

44% The potentially better job and higher income
32% The exposure to new ideas
24% The education

While respondents are optimistic about the return on investment and committed to choosing the best college program for their needs, they expressed concerns about the application process and the financial aspects of pursuing a college degree.

So what can they do to make this a less stressful (and less costly) experience? The roundtable of experts below offers advice for students and parents worrying about applying to and paying for college.

Start early

Robert Franek, senior vice president/publisher at The Princeton Review

“The key take-away from our findings is how essential it is to plan, plan, plan — both for college admission applications and costs.” Every year, Franek says they also ask the survey respondents if they have any advice to share with those who will go through the process the following year. “The most repeated advice, year after year, is two simple words: ‘start early’ – and this means start everything earlier than you think, from saving for college and researching colleges, to preparing for admission tests, and getting applications together before the deadlines.” contains resources to help families navigate the admissions and financial aid application process.

Know your financial aid

Joe DePaulo, CEO and co-founder of College Ave Student Loans

A whopping 65% of respondents said financial aid would be “extremely important. “You need to understand your financial aid award letter,” says DePaulo. He tells GoodCall this entails understanding the various types of awards listed in your letter – and also if they are renewable each year. “Some awards are ‘free aid,’ meaning they don’t have to be paid back, while other awards such as loans will need to be paid back in the future.” And DePaulo advises readers to factor in additional college costs that may not be included in the financial aid package.

If your financial aid award package does not cover everything, you may want to consider a federal or private student loan. According to DePaulo, “College Ave Student Loans offers a simple calculator at to help students understand the loan and ways to save.”

Separate needs from wants

April Masini, relationship expert

Some of the stress experienced by prospective college students and their parents is actually related to perception, self-esteem and self-worth issues, explains Masini.  For example, some families select schools that will create unnecessary financial stress. While everyone wants their kid to go to the best school possible, many people go deep into debt, she says, “trying to pay for an Ivy League or fancy private school – either to make themselves feel better or to keep up with the Joneses.”

Become financially literate

Leslie Tayne, a NewYork-based financial attorney, debt attorney, and the author of Life & Debt

College students need to understand financial literacy basics and budgeting so they won’t fall into debt traps, Tayne explains to GoodCall. “For example, they should understand what it means to save, budget, how to keep their credit score elevated, and how to maintain a good credit history so they do not end up finding themselves eventually behind the 8 ball.”

More on the 2016 College Hopes and Worries Survey

2016 College Hopes & Worries Infographic

Source: The Princeton Review

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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