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Parents want this for their kids, but can't save enough

Most parents believe a college education is an important investment in their kids' future, yet less than half are setting aside money to help finance higher education for their offspring.

Research released this week by Sallie Mae found nine in 10 U.S. parents believe their children would go to college and benefit as a result, but the portion of families saving for their kids college last year fell to 48 percent. Of those not setting anything aside, 61 percent blamed a lack of funds.

Parents who have a college fund are saving less than in years past. The report found that while parents earmark about 10 percent of their total savings for college, the average amount set aside fell to $10,040 in 2015.

Increased costs of living and unexpected expenses were the most commonly cited reasons for why parents are saving less for their kids' college.

Surprisingly, perhaps, single-parent families had set aside an average of $11,868 for their children's college, versus $10,341 for parents living together.

And nearly half of parents saving for college used general savings accounts, and 27 percent used tax-advantaged accounts such as 529 college savings plans, the report found.

The findings involve the results of online interviews with 1,988 Americans having at least one child under 18, conducted in January by Ipos, a French research firm.

Earlier this month, another survey measured the financial fears of pregnant women and the mothers of teens, with the latter group saying they wish they had been advised to start saving for their kids' education while pregnant.

During the last decade, the average published tuition and fees at public, four-year schools rose 42 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to the College Board.

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