Three in 10 parents don’t put any money away for college
Kids, you’re on your own.
Just seven in 10 parents are saving money for college, down from 72% two years back. What’s more, just 29% of parents now say they plan to fully pay for their kids to go to college, down from 43% just two years ago, according to data released Thursday from Fidelity. And on average parents now expect to pay just 62% of their kids total college costs, down from 70% two years ago.
“Parents are more realistic about the cost of college,” explains Melissa Ridolfi, the vice president of retirement and college leadership at Fidelity. Indeed, in the past few years, the cost of college has been covered extensively in the media with some schools and governments announcing things like free tuition to combat the issue.
Chaunie Brusie — a 32-year-old writer and mom of four, who tells Moneyish she puts only a “very, very small” amount of money away for their school each month — is among them. “Realistically, there is just no way my husband and I will be able to afford to send four children to college and pay for it all. He’s a public school teacher and I’m a freelancer, so income is tricky sometimes,” Brusie tells Moneyish.
And she and her husband don’t believe that fully paying for a kid’s college is the best thing for them anyway. “We both had to work during college and earned scholarships, and we watched students around us flunk out because they were on their parents’ dime. Working for it changes how you approach education,” she says. “I believe in my children and I believe that instilling in them the desire to work for themselves is the first lesson for any path they choose to take in life.”
As more parents say they’re not going to pay for school, more kids may be on the hook for the cost. On average, parents expect kids to chip in a whopping $15,385 to fund their education, up nearly 24% from two years ago, the Fidelity research found. But many kids have no idea they’ll have to pay up. That’s because four in 10 parents haven’t discussed with their kids that they will need to help pay for college, up from 31% two years ago.
Even those who do plan to pay for college may not be able to. Currently, the average amount parents have saved in a 529 plan is just $5,441, according to Sallie Mae. That won’t even close to cover a year at most colleges. The average price-tag for in‐state tuition, fees and room and board at a public four‐year school in the 2017-18 year was $20,770; for out-of-state that jumps to $36,420; and at a private nonprofit to $46,950, according to the College Board.
And teens aren’t prepared to assume the cost of college either. A Citizens Bank study showed that most teens had less than $5,000 saved for college (61% high school juniors; 59% high school seniors), with a sizable number having $1,000 or less set aside (39% high school juniors; 30% high school seniors).
Start talking about college early. Mike Moyer, a certified financial planner and the senior wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management, says you should begin talking to your kids about college funds as soon as they start thinking about college. For some might be freshman year in high school or even before.
Don’t just launch into the money details. Make the financial conversation a part of a larger conversation about what your child might want to study in school, and if and where they might want to go to college, he advises.
Discuss all the costs that come with college. Ridolfi suggests asking kids the type of education they envision pursuing, and then explaining the potential differences in price and going over college-related expenses beyond tuition, like books, computers, housing.
Share how much you’ve saved — and what you’ll expect them to contribute. “Let them know how much you have saved for their college education, and discuss ways to make up shortfalls, including sharing how much they’re expected to contribute, gifts from relatives, student loans, scholarships, etc.”
Make it clear that sacrifices must be made. “Be honest with your child that you will make sacrifices and they may have to make sacrifices to afford school,” says Moyer. “It’s important that they don’t see parents as an ATM with an unlimited amount of money.”
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