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Most parents would make this mistake for the sake of their kid's college fund

Key Points
  • More than half of parents are willing to go into debt to put their kids through school, according to a new report by Country Financial.
  • Risking your own financial future for the sake of your kids’ college education is a big mistake, experts say.
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Why college is so expensive in America

Parenting involves a lot of sacrifice, particularly when it comes to paying for college.

Because the price tag on higher education has been increasing significantly for decades, it's harder than ever to afford. Still, 56% are willing to go into debt to put their kids through school, according to a new report by Country Financial.

The average person said they would go $31,000 in the red for their child, the April 2019 survey of more than 1,000 adults found.

In addition to covering sky-high tuition tabs, which have jumped 44% at private colleges and 55% at public schools over the last decade, most parents said they would also pay for pricey private tutoring, SAT or ACT prep classes, athletic coaching and music, language or art lessons — regardless of whether they could afford it.

Parents obviously want to do whatever is in their power to help their children get a leg up in life.
Doyle Williams
executive vice president at Country Financial

To that end, 29% of parents said they would forfeit vacations and 26% would sacrifice their savings, Country Financial found. Eighteen percent said they would take out a loan and 17% would get an additional part-time job.

"Parents obviously want to do whatever is in their power to help their children get a leg up in life," said Doyle Williams, an executive vice president at Country Financial.

However, it's critically important for parents to take care of their own financial well-being first, he said. "The reality is that retirement savings is a necessity and a college fund is a luxury."

The significant increase in college costs has outpaced inflation and far outpaced family income over decades (see the chart below).

To bridge the gap, income and savings from parents and students cover just less than half of an undergraduate's tab, according to Sallie Mae's most recent "How America Pays for College " report. The share of college costs covered by scholarships and grants — money that does not have to be paid back — makes up 28% of the total expense.

Borrowed money covers 24% of the bill, and contributions from grandparents or other relatives or friends pays for the remainder.

CNBC: College costs for typical family

Nevertheless, three-quarters of parents believe it's important to have a college degree when looking for a job, Country Financial found, and 65% agreed college is still a worthwhile investment.

In fact, those with a college degree still earn more: $65,482, on average in 2016, versus $35,615 for those with a high school diploma, according to a 2017 report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

More from Personal Finance:
The latest target of the student debt crisis — mom and dad
Costs have jumped 55% in a decade at public colleges
The best schools for financial aid

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