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How parents are paying for their kid's college

  • Parents are actually spending less on college tuition, according to Sallie Mae's 10th annual "How America Pays for College" report.
  • Parent income and savings accounted for 23 percent of costs and savings and 19 percent of costs are covered by student borrowing.
  • Only 13 percent of families used 529 plans, using an average of $10,031.

The debate about the soaring cost of education in America rages on. But, there's good news. Parents are actually spending less on college tuition, according to Sallie Mae's 10th annual "How America Pays for College" report.

The average amounts families paid in 2016-2017 fell by $5,527 to $23,757. That's the lowest dollar amount spent by parents since 2009, during the financial crisis.

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Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Scholarships and grants covered a greater share of college costs, making up 35 percent of costs in 2016-2017. On average, scholarships and grants paid $8,390 of the expense. That's up from $331 from the prior year. Nearly half of families use scholarships for college.

The report interviewed 800 parents of children ages 18-24 enrolled as undergraduate students and 800 undergraduate students aged 18-24.

Here are the highlights:

  • 23% of costs are covered by parent income and savings
  • 19% of costs are covered by student borrowing
  • 11% of costs are covered by student income and savings
  • 8% of costs are covered by parent borrowing
  • 87% of families who use scholarships get them from the college
  • 84% of students with loans expect to be solely responsible for repaying

Broken down by region:

  • Students from the Northeast are most likely to attend a 4-year private college, paying $35,431 on average
  • Students from the South are most likely to attend college in their home states, paying an average of $20,953
  • Midwest students are most likely to work more hours to make college affordable, paying $21,577 on average
  • In the West, students have the high rate of part-time enrollment, paying $19,181 on average

How are 529 college saving plans being factored in? According to the report, only a small portion of families are taking advantage of these funds to pay for college. Only 13 percent of families used 529 plans, using an average of $10,031.

However, college planning by parents may not be taking into account of cost beyond undergraduate years. Sallie Mae says 59 percent anticipate students will enroll in graduate school.