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Most Students Now Pay for College Themselves

August 13, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227802

Just as the Great Depression left a lasting mark on the generation who lived through it, the children of the Great Recession may already be shifting their world view about money, judging by a new survey that says about 80 percent of them are shouldering some or all of their college costs.

"I think kids are stepping up and it requires a degree of financial responsibility," said Linda Descano, the president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co.

"I think it's a huge financial wake-up call," she said. "I think they're really seeing, they really have to own themselves. They don't have the security their parents did.They see their grandparents struggling to cover health care. I think they're realizing those safety nets are no longer there. How are you going to stay relevant? You can't just go to one place and stay there forever."

Related: How to Start a Business With Student Loans and Not Go Broke

Four out of five college students are now working while going to school, typically 19 hours a week while classes are in session, according to the 2013 College Student Pulse survey conducted by YouGov for Citi and Seventeen Magazine. The survey, released this week, was conducted online in July and considered the views of more than 1,000 college students and high school seniors.

The YouGov findings are in line with a recent study released by SallieMae financial services company that found that parents now pay for about 27 percent of college costs, compared with 37 percent in 2010.

"The whole job outlook has been nothing short of bleak. That sort of had an effect on my outlook," said 20-year-old Zachary Lomas, who attends Colgate University.

Lomas, who hails from Buffalo, N.Y., gets a mix of grants and loans, including some in his name which he figures will amount to $5,000 to $10,000 by the time he finishes his undergraduate degrees in history and English literature. His parents help with costs, especially his mother, he said.

The university's full financial aid package brings down the cost from the top-level sticker price. "What it actually costs is so far out of my range it would be laughable," Lomas said.

During the school year, he works up to 10 hours a week as a research assistant, a job that started out at minimum wage his freshman year. This summer, he's working 25 hours a week for $9 an hour at a bathtub refinishing company. His first summer was spent working 40-hour weeks at an unpaid internship at a law firm. He has since changed his career goals and now plans to attend grad school for journalism.

Indeed, 60 percent of the students in the YouGov survey said they plan to pursue a graduate or professional degree. And fully 94 percent said they believe college will end up being a good investment.

About 62 percent of the students said they have set a budget for their expenses and 67 percent have a savings account. When it comes to college choice, 77 percent said money played an important role in where they applied, and one-third said that money was the single most important deciding factor in enrollment.

Related: How a Pile of Student Debt Inspired a Venture-Backed Startup

In line with the findings of a recent Pew report, the YouGov study found that of the college students surveyed, 35 percent live with their parents; 32 percent live in campus housing; 18 percent live off campus with friends and 4 percent live off campus by themselves.

The one expense parents are most likely to still pay is the students' monthly cell phone bills, according to the survey.

Despite the jobs outlook and the college costs, Lomas is certain his hard work will pay off even if the jobs front remains tough. "If I go in and work hard and prove that I'm one of the best at what I do, it's not going to matter," he said.