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Families Struggle To Pay For College

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Parents of high school students are projected to meet only 11% of future college costs, a study by Fidelity Investments, Boston, reports.

That’s down from last year, when parents estimated on average that they could cover 15% of total college costs for their high school children, according to Fidelity, Boston.

This is a concern because the cost of a college education continues to rise at almost 6% a year, to an average for today’s high school seniors of $124,400 over 4 years, according to Fidelity estimates and data from the College Board, New York.

Fidelity’s 2009 College Savings Indicator study found 63% of parents with children aged 18 and younger have already started saving for college, up from 60% last year. These parents are on track to cover an estimated 18% of their children’s projected future college expenses, down from 21% of those costs in last year’s Indicator study.

Parents using a 529 college savings plan have a significantly higher Indicator number, projecting that they could cover 36% of their children’s future college costs, Fidelity found. Its study also showed that more parents are using dedicated savings accounts, including 529 plans (32% in 2009 vs. 30% in 2008) and non-dedicated savings accounts with funds earmarked for college (28% in 2009 vs. 23% in 2008).

But only 43% of parents felt confident they will be able to secure a student loan for the remaining amount needed to help pay for their children’s education, down sharply from 68% last year.

As a result, many are thinking of ways to earn more money and to control the cost of college costs. Fidelity’s study showed, for instance:

–17% of parents with children 18 years old and younger plan to have a non-working spouse return to work, up from 13% last year.

–17% plan to have themselves or a spouse take on a second job.

–Fewer parents expect their kids to attend a private school: 8% in 2009, down from 11% last year.

–50% plan to have their child live at home and commute to school, vs. 44% who planned to do so in 2008.

–43% expect to delay retirement to help pay for a child’s education, up from 35% who expected to do so in 2008.

–15% have decreased the amount they are saving for retirement, vs. 10% who said so last year.