NCES Data: Over Two-Thirds of Undergraduates Received Financial Aid in 2011-12

By Charlotte Etier, Research Analyst and Erin Timmons, Communications Staff 

Seventy percent of all undergraduates received some type of financial aid during the 2011-12 award year according to data released yesterday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in “Digest of Education Statistics, 2013.” The report, a compilation of statistical information covering education from pre-kindergarten through graduate school, includes data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B) based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS), and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) among others.

According to the report, of the 70 percent of undergraduates who received aid, 59.1 percent received grants and 41.9 percent received loans. Though the average amount awarded in federal grants at all institutions dropped $336 from $4,755 in 2010-11 to $4,419 in 2011-12 (in current dollars), the average amount of federal grant aid has increased $1,680 over the past decade, the report showed. The average amount awarded in state and/or local grants at all institutions only saw a slight bump, increasing $26 between 2010-2011 and 2011-12, and the amount awarded in these types of grants has been steadily climbing – despite state divestment that resulted from the economic downturn – increasing $853 over the past ten years.

Despite news stories of late discussing people who have racked up student loan debt upwards of $100,000, the report shows that is not the case for the majority of undergraduate students. The average cumulative amount borrowed for undergraduate education by full-time, first-year students from 2007-08 through 2011-12 was $15,170 in current dollars. The report also looked at the percentage of undergraduate students ages 18 to 24 in their 4th year or above who had ever received federal undergraduate loans, nonfederal loans, or Federal Parent PLUS loan, and average cumulative amount borrowed. The chart showed a considerable increase in the total percentage of those receiving federal loans; from 50.4 percent in 1989-90 up to 67.7 percent in 2011-12. It also showed an increase in the total average cumulative loan amount for students with loans (constant 2012-13 dollars) which rose from $14,900 in 1989-90 to $25,900 in 2011-12.

The average amount borrowed for full-time, full-year students pursuing postbaccalaureate education was understandably higher than for undergraduates. The data showed the cumulative borrowing for their undergraduate and graduate education was $74,710 in 2011-12, up from $54,980 in 2007-2008. According to the report 86.1 percent of full-time, full-year students who went on to postbaccalaureate education received some type of aid. Of those who received aid 62.3 received federal aid, 2.4 received state aid, 42.2 received institutional funds, and 10.2 received funding from their employer, the report said.

See below for other key findings of the report that pertain to postsecondary education.


  • Between fall 2012 and fall 2023, enrollment is expected to increase by 15 percent. 
  • Between 2002 and 2012, the number of full-time students increased by 28 percent, compared with a 19 percent increase in part-time students.

Degree Attainment: 

  • Between 2001–02 and 2011–12 (the last year of actual data), the number of degrees conferred increased at all levels. 
  • Associate’s degrees was 71 percent higher
  • Bachelor’s degrees was 39 percent higher
  • Master’s degrees was 55 percent higher
  • Doctor’s degrees was 42 percent higher  (doctor’s degree total includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees)

Undergraduate Prices: 

  • Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board rose (after adjustment for inflation:
  • 39 percent public institutions;
  • 27 percent at private nonprofit institutions; and
  • decreased 7 percent (for total tuition, room, and board) at private for-profit institutions.

Educational Attainment: 

  • Between 2003 and 2013, the percentage of the adult population 25 years of age and over who had completed high school rose from 85 percent to 88 percent, and the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree increased from 27 percent to 32 percent.

Newly included statistics for the 2013 digest: 

  • Number of persons 25 to 34 years old, percentage with a bachelor’s or higher degree, and percentage distribution, by undergraduate field of study and selected student characteristics.
  • Number and percentage distribution of students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by distance education participation, level of enrollment, and control and level of institution.
  • Selected statistics for degree-granting postsecondary institutions that primarily offer online programs, by control of institution and selected characteristics.


Publication Date: 5/8/2015

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