Student loan giant Sallie Mae released some interesting stats from its 2011 study of How America Pays for College.

The average amount shelled out for college peaked at $24,097 in 2009-2010 academic year. Families are choosing less expensive schools, such as community colleges, and that figure has dropped to $21,889 for 2010-2011.

High-income families reported the biggest reduction in bills, paying $25,760 in the past year, or an 18 percent drop from the year before. Middle-income families saw a slight dip from $22,628 to $21,347. Low-income familes, though, paid $2,484 more in the past year, for a total of $19,888.

Plus, according to Sallie Mae, more families are getting grants and scholarships for schools. Sixty-seven percent of familes received some free money in the past academic year, compared with 55 percent the year before. Grants and scholarships covered 33 percent of college costs this past year, up from  23 percent the year before.

Eighty-percent of families filed the FAFSA form, the application to qualify for federal aid. That’s an 8 point increase from the year before. And most of that increase in applications came from middle- to high-income families.