August 11, 2022

Students Say College is Worth the Cost, but Majority are Shouldering Education Expenses on Their Own and Struggling, According to Cengage Survey

Students Cite Tuition as the Biggest Pain Point; Say Schools Should Spend More on Learning Materials, Less on Amenities

BOSTON – August 11, 2022 – As college students prepare to head back to campus for another academic year, nearly two-thirds (65%) will be shouldering education expenses completely on their own – and struggling. According to a new survey of 1,200 students from edtech provider Cengage, while students are grappling with affordability, the majority still feel strongly that their education is worth what they’re paying.


“Affordability continues to be a major barrier for today’s college students,” said Kevin Carlsten, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Higher Education Institutional Group at Cengage. “But despite struggling to keep up with tuition and other costs, students still believe in the power of a college education. In order for that faith in education to continue, more needs to be done collectively to lower cost barriers. Students shouldn’t have to make painful tradeoffs when it comes to their education and a path to a better future.”

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Additional survey findings include:


  • The majority of today’s college students are solely paying for their education, with a higher percentage of two-year students paying their own way. Sixty-one percent of four-year students are solely paying their education costs, and 29 percent are splitting costs with parents or family. Meanwhile, 71 percent of two-year students are paying all costs while only 19 percent are splitting costs with parents /family.
  • Students are struggling with education costs – tuition is the biggest burden. Sixty-eight percent of students say it is a struggle for them or their family members to pay for their education. Students say the biggest point is tuition (46 percent), followed by technology/laptops (21 percent) and books/course materials (17 percent).
  • Students have little financial buffer - nearly half (46 percent) have $250 or less left after paying for education costs each month. Fourteen percent of students have only $100 or less left each month after paying expenses.
  • Students want lower tuition; would trade amenities for better learning support. Thirty-six percent say the most impactful thing their college or university can do to lower the cost of education is lower tuition, followed by providing more affordable options for course materials (21%). Nearly all students (81%) said schools should spend more money on providing course materials and less on amenities like dorms, facilities and athletics. 
  • Most students (78 percent) think their education is worth what they’re paying -- as long as college is a gateway to financial independence. Students say earning a salary that allows financial independence (48 percent) followed by getting a job quickly (27%) and paying off their debt in 10 years (11%) are the most important drivers of worth.


More information on student views on affordability and the value of college is available in this downloadable infographic.


To learn more about how Cengage is lowering costs for students, visit


Survey Methodology

Cengage's college affordability survey was conducted in July 2022 and polled 1,200 Americans ages 18-44 who are currently enrolled in a two-year or four-year college or institution for an undergraduate degree. Respondents were also filtered by income level with 600 responses coming from students with Household Income (HHI) under $75,000 and 600 respondents from students with HHI over $75,000.

About Cengage

Cengage, the U.S. Higher Education business of global education technology company Cengage Group, serves millions of instructors, learners and institutions. We deliver affordable, high-quality digital products and personalized support to power learning individually and at scale. Our customer-centered approach enables innovation, including Cengage Unlimited, the first and only all-access digital subscription for textbooks and course materials. Our textbooks, homework tools, and flagship online learning platforms, MindTap and WebAssign, help educators and students achieve their goals. Visit us at or find us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.