Life is full of chicken and egg questions, so it should come as no surprise that college financing is too.
One of those questions hit me head on last week here in Washington, DC, as I participated in a discussion on college savings initiatives hosted by the New America Foundation, and including representatives from a host of college saving-related organizations.
A working premise of much of the discussion was that the more a family saves for college, the more the students in that family are likely to attend college. This “news” was presented in a rather odd manner, as if it was, at the same time, a revelation and yet not open for debate.
I could be wrong, but to my mind the act of saving for college is not something that leads to college going, but instead the desire of parents for their child to attend college is something that leads to college saving. Now I do agree that good saving results could, in the end, make the price of college more palatable, which would help with college persistence.
So, in other words, I’m on the opposite side in my answer to the chicken and egg question: does college saving drive college going? The New America Foundation panelists all opined that saving for college leads to a change in behavior causing the beneficiary of that saving to want to go to college. I believe that if a family wants their child to go to college, then they are more likely to save to meet that goal.
For me then, it all starts with the desire to pursue a higher education. If that desire is there, then a student is going to work harder in middle school and high school and a parent is going to try to save some money for college expenses. What do you think? Click here to go to Hoverings: A Blog for Current and Future College Parents, and answer the question: Does College Saving Drive College Going?
No matter what your answer, I hope that, in addressing issues such as this one, I’m somewhat preaching to the choir. My assumption is that you are reading a College Parents of America newsletter because you care deeply about your son or daughter’s higher education and you are trying to learn as much as you can about the academic process for him or her, and the financial process for you.
Well, you’ve come to the right place, and part of what I want to share with you each week are the nuggets of information that come with representing you in Washington, DC, and being able to attend events such as the one last week.
The biggest insight for me out of the College Savings conference was the fact that a habitual saver of even a small amount is, in the end, going to be much further ahead when it comes to saving for college. According to the savings experts who spoke, seven years is a key “breaking point” when it comes to college saving. If someone develops a habit of saving for that long, then he or she is likely to be way ahead financially of someone who comes to the game late, say when their child is already in high school.
Common sense perhaps, but this point made even greater sense when the panelists pointed that habitual saving usually is paired with a very good reason for that behavior to happen to begin with, and/or for its force to be felt in a more meaningful way. Examples of that are the enormous increases in habitual savings among those who are employed by a company that offers to divert money to college saving directly from a payroll check and/or a company that matches funds designated for college through its own employer contribution.
Now I am well aware that many, if not most, of the readers of this c olumn, are nearing the end of your college paying experience, and long past the point in your life where college savings is the focus. But not too along from now, you may start to have grandchildren to think about, and it is indeed likely that you will be involved in some way in paying for their college educations. The wheels on the bus do indeed go round and round and round.