“College as a worthwhile investment is nearly undisputed,” Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College 2014 report says. “However, this does not imply that all families approach paying for college similarly. Different types of college families show unique values, motivations and behaviors in relation to planning and paying for college.”
Some data support this finding. The number of people attending college between 2001 and 2011 increased 38%, with much of that growth occurring in full-time enrollment. This compares against an increase of just 11% in the period before that. But rising costs, a dense financial environment, and a tough economy have made it increasingly difficult for families to save for college.
1. The cost of college is skyrocketing
The cost of college in America has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. In constant 2011-2012 dollars, the average cost of education at a four-year institution in 1981 was $9,554. By 2012, the average cost had exploded to $23,066. At a two-year institution, costs have increased from $5,986 in 1981 to $9,308 in 2012.