Among parents who have had a child in college within the past 10 years, 53% say they didn’t save enough for college, and 55% wish they had started saving earlier, according to a new survey commissioned by John Hancock Financial Services Inc.

About 57% of the participating parents said they didn’t really save for their child’s education, and 17% said they did not even start thinking about saving for college until their children were between 16 and 20 years old.

Not surprisingly, 54% also said they’d be paying off student loans for years, according to the “Wish I Knew” survey sponsored by Hancock, Boston, a unit of Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto.

Respondents said they wished they had known or done a number of things earlier to prepare for the costs of college. Among the items they wish they had known: How expensive college really is (45%); how scholarships and awards are determined (41%); and how to start a 529 savings plan (36%).

They also wished they had taken the following steps earlier: started to save (55%); opened a 529 savings plan (33%); and had their child save more (19%).

Survey participants blamed their failure to save for college on a number of factors, with 58% blaming the need to pay household expenses.

Fewer than one-third of the participants said children’s savings, home equity loans or gifts from grandparents had paid for the children’s education. Student loans and scholarships helped cover the cost of education for more than 60% of the participants’ children.