Survey finds 36% of parents have taken from college funds to cover coronavirus costs

Woman helping daughter with her home schooling.
Justin Paget | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the physical and financial health of families around the world. 

In the United States, nearly 100,000 people have died and 38.6 million Americans have lost their jobs because of Covid-19. 

And as costs — such as the price of groceries — continue to rise, family budgets are being impacted. 

According to a survey of more than 1,000 parents with children under the age of 18 conducted by online loan marketplace LendingTree, 56% of parents have gone into debt due to coronavirus-related circumstances. Overall, roughly 40% added credit card debt, and 15% took out a personal loan.

Additionally, 36% of parents said they had tapped their child's college fund to help cover expenses due to the financial strain caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. Another 15% of parents answered that they did not have a college fund for their kids. 

"The goal of our survey was to find out how this pandemic is affecting parents in a financial sense and the results were pretty shocking," says Erika Giovanetti, who oversaw the survey. "Since this pandemic first started, one of the groups that have been really affected is parents and their young children. In addition to parents having to be teachers and caregivers and also work at the same time, they also have to worry about how they're going to afford to make distance learning happen." 

Schools have been forced to close their doors and move classes online, but parents have been forced to facilitate this often expensive transition. 

Giovanetti says that the most common items respondents reported spending money on were "mostly learning materials, like computers, laptops, desk monitors and headphones."

According to the survey, 6 in 10 parents said they had to spend money for their child's distance learning. On average, they spent a little over $1,000 on supplies ranging from iPads and laptops (48%) to office furniture (15%).

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve estimates that 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with even just $400 for an unexpected expense.

But while laptops and printers may be expensive, items like these have become necessary for students to go to school online — and for parents to earn a living from home. 

"Normally, we would absolutely not want parents to have to make these decisions, but during these times, you just have to do what you can to provide for your family," says Giovanetti, expressing sympathy for the difficult position parents are being put in. "For instance, taking money out of your children's college fund, especially when they're quite young, is going to make it a lot harder to have money when they're turning 18 and ready to go off to school. But with so many parents answering that they had to, it must be necessary."

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