The cost of college tuition continues to rise. A new study reveals data about how students are managing the costs of college. The report comes just days before President Barack Obama visits the region to discuss affordable higher education. As YNN's Melissa Kakareka tells us, federal financial aid is playing an increasing role in how students are paying for college.
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- College students across the country will be heading back to campus in the coming days, but paying for that higher education isn't always easy.
"I applied for financial aid. I had to apply because I had saved up and my parents had saved up for undergrad but it wasn't enough for even undergrad. And we don't have the money up front to pay," said Amanda Karvitz, a Binghamton University graduate student.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more and more students across all income levels are relying on federal financial aid to pay for college. During the 2011-2012 school year, 42 percent of students received federal grants. That number is up from 28 percent just four years ago. Another 40 percent of students received federal loans. That is a five percent increase.
State and university aid levels remain stagnant or slightly decreased due to tight state budgets.
Overall, 71 percent of undergraduate students received some kind of aid last year, an increase from 66 percent the last time the study was taken.
"SUNY tuition is pretty good by itself. It's worth it for the education you are getting, but financial aid is really important because I don't think I'd be able to come here if I had no financial aid," said Carey He, a Binghamton University freshman.
"It's definitely a lot of money. The textbooks, if you take science classes, the coat, the goggles, the apron, all that type of stuff. If you do get financial aid it does help a lot," said Priscilla Hernandez, a Binghamton University senior.
Local financial aid offices say they haven't seen a dramatic increase in financial aid applications, but believe affordability is becoming more and more important in a student's decisions about college.
"Here at Binghamton, we're seeing that parents are having that conversation. They are talking about the affordability versus maybe a comparable private," said Patricia Donahue, Binghamton University Financial Aid Associate Director.
While financial aid helps students manage the rising cost of education, the NCES data shows that college costs are still going up.
Students say they would like to see the price of higher education drop in the future.
"I'm planning to go to grad school, so hopefully by then it won't be as expensive as it is now," said He.
The survey NCES is conducted every four years to highlight how students are paying for higher education. Click here to view the full study.