Perspectives on higher education payments from students in the U.S.

Complex, unclear payment processes on top of costs add to stress for college students in the U.S.

More college and university students in the U.S. want the option to pay for their education in installments, and want to know as soon as they receive their offer letters what those options are.

Of the 200 students Flywire surveyed, 80% said they wished they knew when they received their offer letter whether installments were an option. Flexible payment options are in higher demand than Flywire’s previous global student perspectives survey, with 75% of students saying it would increase affordability as opposed to 63%.

Flywire commissioned new research to explore the attitudes and experiences of more than 1,800 students in nine countries regarding pursuing and paying for higher education. It found that for students in the U.S.:

The payment process can be complex and stressful, and they want clearer information about how to pay, earlier on in the process.

  • Only 55% said it was clear as to how and when to pay for their education from their offer letter. 87% would like to have that information when they receive their offer letter.
  • 9 out of 10 said they would find it helpful to have someone to guide them through the payment process.
  • 91% said that a simplified payment process would improve their higher education experience. This is up significantly from 77% in the last survey.

They rely on funding education with loans at a rate lower than students in other countries.

  • 80% say they need help affording their education. And more than half say the stress they and their families feel about the payment process is due to financial difficulties.
  • 49% have taken loans out to pay for their education. This is average compared with other countries but much lower than students in the U.K. (83%) and much higher than students in Peru (19%).
  • As in most other countries, students in the U.S. students (89%) are worried about paying those loans off and how it might impact their ability to do things like save for a home (57%), travel (48%) and continue their education (39%).

Students in the U.S. prioritize convenience and ease when choosing payment options.

  • They pay by bank transfer/e-check from their bank (26%), debit card (25%) and credit card (24%).
  • They want to use different payment methods, including: credit card (18%), debit card (16%), bank transfer (15%), PayPal (11%), cash (10%) and even check (7%).
  • They want their institution to recommend what platform to use to pay: 83% say having their institution recommend a payment provider would simplify the process.

U.S. students opt to study abroad for different reasons than those in other countries.

  • 41% have either studied abroad, are currently doing so, or plan to. This is lower than every other country surveyed other than the UK (32%). India (78%) and China (77%) top study abroad interest.
  • Their top drivers are cultural experience (50%), a different on-campus experience (42%) and location/ability to travel (42%)— all significantly higher than for students in any other country.

For more on the payment preferences and solutions for higher education institutions and students.