Personal Finance

College costs increasingly fall on students' shoulders

Author defends defaulting on student loan debt
Author defends defaulting on student loan debt

College is the holy grail for many parents contemplating their children's future, and it seems even rising tuition can't dent that faith.

But it can affect parents' plans to pay for college.

A survey released Tuesday by Discover Student Loans found that while 95 percent of parents view a college education as somewhat or very important, 25 percent of parents do not plan to help their child pay for college, up from 19 percent in 2013. (Tweet this) And almost half (46 percent) said their children should fund at least some of the cost of college.

Parents were also more inclined to limit which college their child attends based on price, with 48 percent saying they would go that route, up from 44 percent in 2014. And 44 percent said their child's choice of major would affect their willingness to help with college costs, up from 33 percent a year ago. (Tweet this)

"Parents are more and more inclined to consider the financial elements in selecting a school. That has consistently been increasing," said Andrew Hopkins, vice president of Discover Student Loans. "We see that as reflecting the ambivalence around what is an important and significant investment for the family."

Students attend a class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Roda Churchill | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Certainly, higher education can be one of the biggest investments a parent makes. Measured in 2014 dollars, average tuition, fees, and room and board at a non-profit, four-year college was $31,231 for the 2014-15 school year, up from $22,159 in 2000-01. At public four-year schools, costs for the 2014-15 school year stood at $9,139, nearly double the $4,837 price tag of 2000-01, according to the College Board.

Grant aid has increased as well, rising from an average of $4,350 per student in 2000-01 to $8,080 per student in 2013-14, the College Board found. (Those figures are in 2013 dollars.) Still, with the absolute gap between average grants and college costs widening, more and more families are confronting decisions about how to pay the balance.

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A quarter of the parents Discover surveyed planned to use family savings to help pay for college, down from 29 percent a year earlier but in line with the 24 percent who said they would do so in 2012. Student loans were the most common source of funding parents cited, at 29 percent, and that rate has been nearly constant since 2012.

The season for college financing decisions is now, Hopkins said, calling June "the time when those kitchen conversations are happening" ahead of the midsummer tuition bills. And given the current cost of college, he said parents "are increasingly inclined to have their student take on some financial responsibility."