August 20, 2009 / 7:18 PM / 9 years ago

Parents pay college costs amid recession: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than half of U.S. parents use their current income to pay all or part of college costs for their children and are confident they can continue to support them amid the country’s recession, a Gallup poll found.

The poll, which was commissioned by student loan provider Sallie Mae and released on Wednesday, found 55 percent of the 800 parents surveyed paid on average $7,175 for the 2008-2009 academic year from their current income.

Despite tough economic times, 67 percent of parents said they were confident in their ability to meet the cost of education, while 13 percent had little or no confidence.

“This study shows that parents are confident — they expect to pay and plan to,” said Sallie Mae’s Sarah Ducich, author of the study. “Families are resourceful and will stretch as far as they can (for their childrens’ education).”

When asked to rank their worries about paying for college, parents overwhelming said a hike in tuition topped the list, followed by concerns over the declining value of their savings and loss of income because of job layoffs.

On average, annual tuition and fees for two-year public colleges in the United States were $2,402 for 2008-2009, $6,585 for four-year public colleges, and $25,143 for four-year private colleges, according to the College Board, a college membership organization. In all cases the price went up by at least 5 percent compared with last year.

Parents bore the brunt of paying for college, followed by scholarships and grants.

Parents paid 45 percent of the total costs of college in the 2008/09 academic year using income, savings and borrowing, similar to the previous year.

“Very few parents use one method or channel to pay for college,” said Gallup’s Bill Diggins, the study’s lead researcher.

The second largest source of college funding was scholarships and grants, covering 25 percent of total costs, while students contributed 24 percent, using a mix of income, savings and borrowing. A small amount came from sources such as relatives and friends.

The poll surveyed about 800 parents of college students and about 800 college students by telephone between March 20 and April 17, 2009. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Reporting by Chavon Sutton; editing by Michelle Nichols and Frances Kerry

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