More and more American households are struggling to help pay for their children's college education costs, according to a recently released study.
Parents surveyed say they plan to pay for only about half of their children's college costs and currently are on track to meet less than one-third of their goal, according to Fidelity Investments 6th Annual College Savings Indicator study, which was released today.
Parents on average this year plan to pay for only 57 percent of their children's college costs, according to the survey. The typical family is currently on track to cover just 30 percent. To make up the difference, families will look to additional funding options such as loans, grants and scholarships, either through financial aid programs or other sources.
Although more than 75 percent of parents don't want to burden their children with student loans, in many cases it may be unavoidable; recent reports find graduates leave school with an average of $25,250 in student loan debt, according to the survey.
Among families addressing college costs, about two thirds are making changes to better manage potential post-graduation debt. Thirty-eight percent of families, for example, are opting for less expensive colleges. Twenty-eight percent are planning to rely more heavily on financial aid and 16 percent are asking their children to change majors to secure better salaries after graduation.
While many families are still behind in reaching their college savings goals, the percentage of families saving for college-66 percent, according to the survey-has held steady over the past three years.Fifty-four percent of the households surveyed said they're familiar with 529 college savings plans, compared to 51 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 2009. Roughly 34 percent of families that use these accounts have increased their monthly contributions, up from 25 percent last year.
Thirty-three percent of parents said they work with financial advisors to help guide their college savings strategies and are increasingly asking for advice related to school selection, financial aid, the grant process, and how college costs should be divided between parents and children. Sixty-eight percent who work with advisors feel they are closer to achieving their college savings goals than they would be if working on their own.
The online survey was conducted by Research Data Technology, which received responses from more than 2,300 parents nationwide with children aged 18 and younger who are expected to attend college. Respondents had household incomes of $30,000 a year or more and were the financial decision makers in their household.