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How Much Will Parents Pay for College?

How much are parents willing or able to pay for college?Black and white photo of three stacks of coins.
For many, not a whole lot.

At least that's the conclusion that you can draw from the results of a new survey of parents of college-bound high school seniors.

In the survey, which was conducted by Longmire and Company, a higher-ed consulting firm, the largest percentage of parents said the maximum yearly amount that they could devote to college costs was less than $5,000.

How Generous Are Parents?

Here's what thousands of parents from across the country said that they could afford to contribute out of pocket each year for college costs:

Parental financial help Percentage of parents

  • Less than $5,000 33%
  • $5,000 - $9,999 21%
  • $10,000 - $14,999 13%
  • $15,000 - $19,999 9%
  • $20,000 - $24,999 7%
  • $25,000 - $30,000 6%
  • Over $30,000 12%

Talking About College

Considering that college represents the second biggest expense for many families, parents and teenagers aren't spending a lot of time talking about this milestone. According to the survey, only half of parents have had detailed discussions with their teenagers about college by the time their children are half way through their senior year in high school. Most of the rest of the families have had general conversations, while 3% haven't discussed college at all.

This was the second disturbing study on parents' willingness or ability to help their children pay for college that was released this week. A study commissioned by lender Sallie Mae and conducted by Gallup, found that the number of families who planned to cover few if any college costs had risen while the number of parents expecting to cover more than half of the costs had dropped.

Let me state the obvious here: families should be having serious discussions about who is going to pay for college. And they shouldn't be waiting until senior year in high school to start talking.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
College costs image by Fernando Rossi. CC 2.0.

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