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Financial Literacy - College funding
National poll results
More than half of parents say they can't afford college, but they'll postpone their retirement to help finance it.
Smart ways to pay for college

Half of families can't afford college

Making sense of it all
Taken as a whole, the results seem to point to an unavoidable trap where parents either secure their children's futures or their own. "The poll illustrates that for many households, paying for college will mean sacrificing their long-term financial security by taking out second mortgages or personal loans," says Draut. "This is particularly true for those parents on the cusp of retirement age, who need to focus on securing their own financial future for retirement."

McBride agrees. "Unfortunately, some of the conclusions seem to correlate to actual behavior, such as the lack of priority given to retirement savings and the emphasis on maintaining present lifestyle," he says.

With college enrollment numbers steadily increasing, it's hard to understand how the consequences could really be this serious. "The larger context of the poll findings are that college tuition has become priced out of reach for most households," Draut says. "While the nation's primary lever for helping lower- and middle-income students pay for college ... the federal financial aid system ... has grown anemic." 

Without action on the personal or policy front, the cost of passing children the key to the middle class may well prove too dear for half the nation; the alternative is driving them into debt, making that entry less certain.

-- Posted: Sept. 17, 2007
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