Parents Saving Less for College, Survey Finds

By Caralee J. Adams — February 26, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A new national survey finds families are overwhelmed and saving less for college than they were two years ago.

Sallie Mae’s most recent “How America Saves for College” survey, released today, shows half of American families with children younger than 18 reported in 2012 that they were saving for college, compared with 60 percent in 2010. Researchers note the decline is likely a response to a protracted, weak economy and other priorities. “Families are focusing on ‘rainy day’ savings, general nondedicated savings, and retirement rather than college-specific savings,” the report says.

When parents were asked why they aren’t saving for college, responses varied. Top answers: Parents assume that financial aid will cover the cost of college; they think children are too young or too old to be saving; families are uncertain about which savings option to use; and others are merely procrastinating or feel it is up to the student to pay for college.

Nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed say they don’t have a plan yet are optimistic about their ability to save in the future, with many anticipating bumping up savings in the next five years.

While adults recognize the value of college, many report being in denial about college savings and feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated, and scared, according to the survey conducted in August of 1,600 parents online and sponsored by Sallie Mae, the financial-services company specializing in education, and Ipsos, an independent market-research company.

About 27 percent of parents who are saving for college use a 529 plan, a tax-advantaged savings plan for education, while about 42 percent are using other vehicles.

The amount that families are socking away does not square with the reality of college costs today. Parents with college-savings goals, on average, are aiming to save about $39,000 for each child. And the Sallie Mae analysis estimates that there is a gap between expected and actual savings, with most parents saving just $19,784 per child by the time their children turn 18.

Yet the College Board’s latest figures show the average cost of tuition and room and board at public state universities for in-state students are about $17,860 a year and $39,518 at private, nonprofit colleges.

Parents anticipate college costs will be paid by scholarships, grants, student contributions,
and borrowing. “Although the overestimation on financial-aid resources, and resulting underestimation of personal contributions and borrowing—particularly by the student—is slight, it is concerning as saving is less equivocal than is planning for scholarship and grant aid,” the report says.

The report, “How America Saves for College,” is the third in a series of surveys Sallie Mae has conducted on the topic since 2009.

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP