One major concern for students pursuing postsecondary education is how to pay for it. The total price of attending a postsecondary institution includes tuition and fees, books and materials, and living expenses. In 200708, the average total price of attendance (in constant 200910 dollars) for studentsthat is, full-time, full-year, dependent undergraduates who attended only one institution during the yearwas $19,300 at public 4-year institutions and $12,100 at public 2-year institutions (see table A-47-1). At private institutions, the total price was $37,400 at not-for-profit 4-year institutions $23,800 at not-for-profit 2-year institutions, $33,500 at for-profit 4-year institutions and, $27,900 at for-profit 2-year institutions.
Grants and loans are the major forms of federal financial support for postsecondary students. Federal grants (e.g., Pell grants), do not need to be repaid, and are available only to undergraduates who qualify by economic need, whereas loans are available to all students. In addition to federal financial aid, there are also grants from state and local governments, institutions, and private sources. In 200708, about two-thirds (65 percent) of full-time, full-year undergraduates received a grant from any source and one-third (33 percent) received a federal grant (see figure CL-4 and table A-46-1). At public 4-year institutions, some 29 percent of full-time, full-year undergraduates received federal grants in 200708, compared with 28 percent of undergraduates at private not-for-profit institutions and 56 percent of undergraduates at private for-profit 4-year institutions. At 2-year institutions, some 37 percent of students at public institutions, 52 percent of students at private not-for-profit institutions, and nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of student at private for-profit institutions received federal grants in 200708.
Forty-nine percent of first-time, full-time students at degree-granting institutions had a student loan in 200809 (see table A-49-1). At public 4-year institutions, some 47 percent of these students had student loans and the average loan amount was $6,000 (in constant 200910 dollars) (see figure CL-5). At private not-for-profit 4-year institutions, some 61 percent of first-time, full-time students had loans and the average loan amount was $7,700. At private for-profit 4-year institutions, 81 percent of these students had loans, and the average loan amount was $9,800. Looking at 2-year institutions, some 21 percent of first-time, full-time students at public institutions had loans in 200809, with an average loan amount of $4,200; in contrast, 58 percent of these students at private not-for-profit institutions had a loan, with an average loan amount of $6,100, and 78 percent of these students at private for-profit institutions had a loan, with an average loan amount of $7,800.
Approximately 3.2 million students entered the repayment phase of their student loans in fiscal year (FY) 2008, meaning their students loans became due between September 30, 2007 and October 1, 2008 (see table A-49-2). Of those students, 7 percent defaulted within 2 years, or by October 1, 2010 (see figure CL-6). The default rates for the FY 2008 cohort were highest at private for-profit 4-year institutions (11 percent) and private for-profit 2-year institutions (12 percent). The lowest default rates for that same cohort were at public and private not-for-profit 4-year institutions (4 percent each).