More teenagers (78 percent) are researching the best way to pay for college than researching how to purchase their first car (60 percent), according to a survey released today.

Fifty-four percent of teens said they have made financial contributions towards their college savings fund.  In comparison, 37 percent of teens surveyed said they have made financial contributions toward the purchase of their first car.

To help pay for some portion of their college education costs, three-fifths said they expect to have to take out a student loan.

“Student loan debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark, and this message is hitting home with Generation Z,” said Nancy Farmer, president of Private College 529 Plan, which commissioned the survey. “By taking an active role in saving for their higher education, these teens are investing in themselves and their futures, which can only benefit them financially as they move into adulthood and help take some pressure off of their parents.”

Two-thirds of teens said their parents discussed their efforts to save for their college education with them. When asked who educated the teens about their future college education costs and the best ways to save in order to avoid student loans, parents came in first, with 81 percent of teens giving them an excellent or good rating. Guidance counselors received a 55 percent rating and friends came in last at 40 percent.

Private College 529 Plan is a prepaid college savings plan that locks in current tuition rates at its 270 participating colleges and universities. The survey Teen College Savings Barometer was conducted online among 1,000 teenagers between 13-17 years old in March by ORC International.