College spending per student was about $21,000 during 2012, down from a peak of $24,000 in 2010, according to the Sallie Mae-Ipsos Public Affairs report.
The annual survey of student financial aid found students earned about $6,300 in grants and scholarships to pay for college costs in 2012, taking the top spot from parents. Parents chipped in $5,727 on average, a decrease of 35 percent since 2010.
In terms of percentages, the typical family relied on grants and scholarships for 30 percent of college costs and parents' income and savings for 27 percent. Student borrowing accounted for 18 percent while the remainder came from student income and savings, parent borrowing, and relatives and friends, according to the Sallie Mae report.
Student loans were the third most common source to pick up the bill for courses, housing and books with the average student borrowing $8,815 in federal loans. The Sallie Mae report said that while slightly fewer students borrowed to pay for college, those who did took out larger loans.
The rate for those loans was the subject of debate in the Senate last week, as lawmakers considered a compromise that would offer some students lower rates for the next few years but would prescribe higher rates for future classes. The Senate is expected to vote on that White House-backed compromise on Wednesday.
"Rates on every single new college loan will come down this school year, offering relief to nearly 11 million borrowers," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday.