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Survey Indicates Value of Education Varies Among Ethnic Groups

According to the new study “How America Pays for College,” only 54 percent of Hispanic parents surveyed said that college is an investment in a child’s future versus 81 percent of Whites and 85 percent of Blacks. Fifteen percent of Hispanic parents said they were willing to stretch financially for the best opportunity for a child versus 50 percent of Whites and 66 percent of Blacks, according to study results, based on a telephone survey conducted last spring by student loan giant Sallie Mae.

“One of the things we need to work on for next year’s study is that the number of Hispanics we have are relatively small,” said Dr. Bill Diggins, strategic consultant for Gallup and lead researcher on this survey. “We need to boost that up. There were some differences across race and ethnicity — primarily among Hispanics. Interestingly, Hispanics seem to be much more debt averse than both African-Americans and Whites. They’re paying approximately one-third less in total college costs than Whites and African-Americans.”

Overall findings suggest American families place a high value on college education. Three-quarters of the 684 students ages 18-24 interviewed strongly agreed that one of the reasons they are attending college is that they will enjoy a better quality of life. Ninety-four percent of the 720 parents agreed that sending their child to college was an investment in their child’s future. Three quarters of parents and 87 percent of students agreed they would rather borrow to pay for college than not be able to go at all.

The survey shows that 58 percent of families reported ruling out schools because of cost at some point during the application process, with 43 percent doing so even before considering a college. The survey also showed that some families might not be fully investigating whether or not a college is affordable and what financial aid options exist before eliminating it from consideration.

While nearly nine out of 10 families (89 percent) with annual income below $35,000 filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), this number drops to only 76 percent for families with annual incomes between $35,000 to $50,000 and 73 percent for families in the $50,000 to $100,000 range. Researchers did not inquire why these families did not fill out FAFSA. They noted that earlier this year Congress passed a simplified version, which will take effect for lower income families immediately and over the next five years will be available for everyone.

The survey did not separate out single-parent households.

The survey also showed 70 percent of students and parents said they did not consider the student’s expected post-graduation income as a factor in their borrowing decisions.

This past May, Sallie Mae, which manages nearly $172 billion in education loans, and Gallup conducted a study of 1,404 undergraduates and parents to investigate “How America Pays for College.” The survey, which was conducted as telephone interviews, was really a look back on the past year, not a projection into the future. Researchers say they will utilize this initial data as a baseline for future surveys, which they anticipate conducting annually for the foreseeable future.

“Our goal is to foster a national dialogue about how best to help American families maximize the benefits of higher education,” said Tom Joyce, senior vice president of Sallie Mae.

“We recently launched the Education Investment Planner, a free online comprehensive tool that enables families to estimate the total cost of a college degree, build a customized plan to pay for college and estimate the salary a graduate would need to keep repayment of student loans manageable,” he added.

 “You need a lifetime of planning,” said Joyce. “This is a significant life cost. The old model of how to plan for this probably no longer applies.”

The complete survey can be found and downloaded at

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