Majority of US students ‘overspend’ on university

Report finds that the average undergraduate pays twice the amount recommended by an affordability benchmark 

April 25, 2017
Piggy bank wearing mortar board (tuition fees)

More than two-thirds of US undergraduates pay more for university than they should be able to afford, according to a recent report.

The study from three US thinktanks compared 2012 federal data on the tuition fees and other expenses spent by full-time university students nationwide with an affordability benchmark created in 2015.

The benchmark, dubbed “Rule of 10” and created by the Lumina Foundation, which aims to increase the proportion of Americans with post-secondary qualifications, says students and families should pay no more for college than the savings they can accumulate by setting aside 10 per cent of their discretionary income for 10 years, along with the additional income students earn from working 10 hours per week while enrolled.

For example, an average student could afford to pay $35,135 (£27,600), based on a $23,857 contribution from savings and $11,277 in student wages earned during college.

But the findings of the report suggest that 68 per cent of undergraduates overpaid; on average students paid twice the amount indicated by the benchmark, often with the help of loans and by working an average of 16 hours each week during university.

The study, The Affordability Conundrum: Value, Price and Choice in Higher Education from the Manhattan Institute, New America, and American Enterprise Institute, found that the average student takes on $16,498 in debt over the course of their degree, which covers about 30 per cent of overall college costs.

It added that the average net cost of tuition and fees for one year of study at a four-year public university was $3,770 in 2015 – up nearly 30 per cent from a decade earlier.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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