October 8, 2010 / 8:34 PM / 8 years ago

Costs spur more U.S. teens to delay or skip college

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More than a third of U.S. teenagers would consider delaying or skipping college, an increase from last year, because of the high costs, according to a new study.

It showed that while more teens think a college degree is needed to get ahead than adults did when they were adolescents, fewer believe they can afford to continue their education.

“This is very concerning,” said Stuart Rubinstein, of investment firm TD Ameritrade Corp., which conducted the poll. “A college degree is really necessary these days for someone who is on a path to have a good career and life-time earning potential.”

While higher education costs have grown, so has unemployment among teenagers. U.S. jobless figures reached 9.6 percent in September, but 26 percent of teenagers aged 16 to 19 were unemployed, government data showed on Friday.

Teens are competing with adults who have turned to retail and fast food jobs after losing other positions, Rubinstein explained.

About 79 percent of teens see a degree as critical for their future success, down from 84 percent a year ago, but up sharply from 57 percent of adults who saw it as essential when they were teens.

But 36 percent of the teenagers said they would consider delaying or not going to college at all because of the expense involved, up from 31 percent a year ago.

But mounting costs are driving teens to save more of their money for college than adults did at their age.

Two-thirds of teens said they are saving to pay for all or part of their higher education.

With the hurdles high, teens are split on whether going to a big name school is worth the extra money, the survey showed.

About 41 percent of adults and 35 percent of teens said a school like Harvard or Princeton is important, but not necessary to get ahead. Only 17 percent of teens think going to a top tier school would give them a better chance of finding a job.

Nearly 80 percent said that would like to create a plan to split the costs with their parents, about double the share of adults who tried sharing costs with their parents when they were teens.

Getting started was a mystery for more than half of the teenagers.

“The economy has gotten quite tough. The cost of college has gone up significantly. There are some ways to balance those costs, including possibly starting at a community college,” Rubinstein said.

He added that parents should start talks early with children about their family plan to pay for college educations.

Reporting by Lynn Adler; editing by Patricia Reaney

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