Parents misjudge the cost of college

By Staff Writer
November 10, 2006

Having a child attend college is a fundamental goal of many American parents.

“As a mother, I always wanted the best for my daughter. I didn’t want to see her struggling at a job just to make $10 or $12 an hour; anybody could do that. From the very beginning, I wanted nothing but success for her. And, I’ve always seen education as a way for her to achieve that success,” said Danette Greene, parent of Sloan Harrison, a junior psychology major.

Although, the pursuit of a college education is deeply encouraged and promoted, when it comes to saving for it, some parents simply fail to make the grade.

Discretionary spending usually defers parents from investing money into a college fund, according to a survey conducted by Matthew Greenwald and Associates, a national polling firm.

The survey showed that 95 percent of the 1,358 parents surveyed in August of 2006 said that they would pay some or all of their child’s college expenses. The results also displayed that in the past year a staggering 58 percent of the parents targeted spent more on dining-out than they had on saving for their child’s college education; meanwhile, 49 percent admitted to spending more on vacations.

“My parents didn’t necessarily set aside a college fund for me, but they did make sure that when it was time for me to go off to college they wouldn’t have to struggle to pay my tuition. Basically, they didn’t do any lavish spending on unnecessary items,” said Randall Reid, a junior accounting major.

The research went on to show that not only are parents failing to save enough money to fund their child’s education, but that 87 percent of the parents surveyed were relying on scholarships and other grants to cover a portion of their child’s tuition.

“During my senior year of high school we looked around for different scholarships. Even though I’m an athlete, we didn’t depend solely on athletic scholarships; we explored our options,” said Reid.

Unlike Reid and his parents, 47 percent of the surveyed parents encouraged sports specifically to attain scholarships.

As a high school student, Harrison was a member of the track team. Danette saw this as an opportunity to fund her daughter’s education. But, shortly before junior year Harrison decided to quit the team thereby squashing her mother’s hopes.

“I encouraged Sloan’s participation on the track team. I believed that we would be able to get a lot of financial aid that way. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way I had planned,” said Greene.

When it comes to financial aid and scholarships, many parents may be in for a rude awakening.

Another survey conducted between August and September of 2006, showed that financial aid administrators think that most parents have a false sense of security that colleges will help cover the costs of their child’s education. They also said that 92 percent of parents overestimate the amount of scholarship and grant money their children will receive.

“I wholeheartedly regret not saving as much as I would have like to. If I could undo the past, I would surely invest more of my money into a college fund for my daughter. A parent should never risk short-changing their child especially on something as valuable as an education,” said Dannet.

Staff Writer

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