For the past four academic years, families tried to reduce the amount of money they paid for college, even as tuition prices steadily grew. For the first time since the 2009-2010 school year, families of undergraduate students spent more than $24,000 on average for a year of college, according to the “How America Pays for College” report from education finance company Sallie Mae.
The $24,164 spent by an average family for the 2014-2015 term was a significant jump from the 2013-2014 average of $20,884. After the previous peak at $24,097 in 2009-2010, families seemingly tightened their belts, spending an average between $20,884 and $21,889 for the next four academic years. The $3,000+ (16%) jump in how much people paid for college this past year suggests families were more willing to absorb the higher costs.
At least, so it seemed to be the case for higher-income families. In 2014-2015, high-income families paid about $12,000 more for a year of school than middle- and low-income families. In the prior academic year, that difference was only $7,000. No matter what type of institution the student attended, spending increased, but families with students at private four-year colleges forked over about $6,000 more than they did last year, while students at public schools spent only about $2,000 more on average.
While student borrowing wasn’t the main source of funding, students borrowed an average of $681 more for the 2014-2015 school year than those who borrowed for 2013-2014. Student loans have a huge impact on a borrower’s credit standing — sometimes, it’s the first form of credit a person ever gets — so it’s crucial to manage those loans well. Without student loans, young consumers may want to explore credit cards as a way to start building credit. (Here’s a guide to credit cards well-suited for students.)
As soon as students establish their credit histories, it’s crucial they start paying attention to their credit reports and credit scores to help them get a positive start to this aspect of financial adulthood. You can see how student loans affect your credit by pulling your free annual credit reports and getting your free credit scores every 30 days on Credit.com.
This article originally appeared on Credit.com and was written by Christine DiGangi.