Mom Will Help You Get Into College, But Won't Help You Pay For It, Says a New Poll

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Teens

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Moms are less likely than dads to have a financial plan for their children's college educations. Credit: AMagill, Flickr

They say a mother's work is never done, but one survey says mothers are falling down on the job of saving for the kids' college.

A new poll found while mothers push kids harder than dads to succeed in school and get into college, they're not as involved in planning how to pay for it.The survey found that 76 percent of women say it's important for their kids to get a college degree, as opposed to 66 percent of men, and they're more likely than fathers to work to get them accepted. Moms are more likely than dads to help kids research schools (89 percent of moms vs. 62 percent of dads), help with the applications (87 percent vs. 62 percent) and discuss college with them (83 percent vs. 64 percent).

But when it comes to how to pay for college, moms are handing it over to dads. Among those families that were planning how to pay for college, 85 percent of fathers said they're taking primary responsibility for the planning, and only 65 percent of mothers. Only 56 percent of women knew how much their households had saved for college, compared to 65 percent of men, and 67 percent had factored the cost of college into their overall savings, compared to 75 percent of men.

"There absolutely is a disconnect," Dipti Kachru, assistant vice president of marketing for OppenheimerFunds, the financial firm that sponsored the survey, told ParentDish. The study polled 1,725 adults who are parents of at least one child 18 or younger who's not yet in college.

"There is this overwhelming engagement in sending their kids to college ... versus their actually taking action on the financial side of the business," Kachru says. "The action is not up to the what it's required."

Mothers are probably too overwhelmed with all their other responsibilities to focus on college costs: "There are only 24 hours in the day," Donna Winn, president and CEO of OFI Private Investments, a unit of OppenheimerFunds that manages college savings plans, told ParentDish.

"It's the important versus the urgent," says Kachru. "But they don't realize that important is going to turn into urgent, and then it may be a bit too late."

According to the College Board, the average cost of attending a private, four-year college has gone up to $26,273 this school year, and a public college costs $7,020 on average.

Winn says she has observed that many mothers spend time online, reading parenting sites and seeking advice on raising children, but she hasn't seen too many conversations about how to pay for college. So OppenheimerFunds' college savings Web site has added a section targeted directly to mothers.

"We want to catch the women's attention and say: 'Look, have a dialog with your spouse ... and start to save in any ways you can,'" says Winn. "We're hoping that by starting this dialog and making this dialog broader, we can start to affect change."

With college costs rising at about 6.5 percent a year, parents' savings have to do more than beat inflation, says Winn. She suggests they explore all possibilities to boost the college fund, including setting aside a fixed amount regularly, having children get part-time jobs and using rebate rewards from credit cards.

Winn and college fund managers like her take heart in some of the findings of the study, which shows mothers are more willing than fathers to make sacrifices to pay for kids' college, such as dining out less (77 percent of mothers, compared to 69 percent of fathers), buying fewer electronics (76 percent vs. 65 percent), buying fewer clothes (75 percent vs. 64 percent) or giving up vacations (66 percent vs. 59 percent).

But the sacrifice is worth it, says Winn. She points out that households led by a college graduate have an annual median income of $101,099, while those led by someone with a high-school diploma or GED certificate make only $49,414 a year.

"If you bother to save for your kids' educations ... Their average income will be twice than if you don't go to college," says Winn. "You set your kids for life."

Related: More Money & Work

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