Who’s Paying for College? Why Many Families Skip the “C” Conversation

Posted

college-conversationIt seems like another horror story about college costs appears in the news every other day—whether it’s the fact that tuition is skyrocketing or that students are saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.

But apparently, these scary headlines aren’t doing much to convince parents that they need to start coming up with a college payment plan—pronto.

According to a new survey by Fidelity Investments, just 57% of families with kids 13 and older have had any kind of conversation about paying for college, and only 34% have asked their children to start saving. That’s in spite of the fact that 85% of moms and dads expect their kids to foot more than a third of the college bill, through part-time jobs, student loans and simply saving up.

But then again, how much of an impact could family meetings about the cost of college really have? If recent research is any indication … a lot. A new T. Rowe Price survey found that 58% of kids whose parents talk about saving for college are actually saving on their own—compared to just 23% of kids whose parents don’t address the topic on a regular basis.

Those savings will come in handy, too, given that parents’ expectations about how much they can contribute to college costs are often out of whack. In the Fidelity study, moms and dads said they plan to cover about two-thirds of their kids’ total college costs—but in reality, they’re only prepared to pay 28%.

Unfortunately, talking about the cost of college isn’t as easy as it might seem. The best plan is to start early—but even if your kid already has her driver’s license, there’s still hope. To make the dialogue flow a little more smoothly, consider consulting a financial planning professional and researching potential scholarships as a family.