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Lack of College Savings, Know-How

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College costs continue to rise, and an Edward Jones survey finds that 83% of Americans say they cannot afford the expense of a college education. It’s the fourth year that Edward Jones has surveyed Americans about college savings. And this year’s poll also finds that just 34% can identify 529 plans, down from 37% in 2012, but up from 30% in 2014.

The survey results indicate that only 17% of Americans overall believe they can cover the expense of college for themselves or a family member. Male respondents are nearly twice as likely to indicate “yes” than their female counterparts, 21% vs. 11%.

Among those with higher incomes, $100,000 a year or more per household, only 37% say they can afford the cost. Those in this group, 58%, are more likely to correctly identify 529 plans as college-savings tools from among four potential options, according to Edward Jones.

Yet just 35% of respondents with children ages 13–17 could correctly identify these plans. (Congress recently updated some 529 plan rules.)

“Despite headlines focused on the increasingly high costs of college, we still see a significant number of Americans who aren’t aware of one of the most important long-term savings vehicles that can help minimize the impact that the cost of education has on families,” said Steve Seifert, principal at Edward Jones, in a statement.

“Demographically, people are living longer and having children later in life, narrowing the time between a child’s college bills and his or her parents’ retirement age. This, coupled with the fact that the cost of college is increasing at a much higher rate than inflation, means that many are grappling with how to stay on track to meet savings goals,” Seifert said.