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College Students With Divorced Parents Pay More For Education

December 16, 2010

college savingsCollege students with divorced parents are paying significantly more for their education than those whose parents stay together, a recent study shows.

According to a study published by researchers from Rice University and the University of Wisconsin, divorced parents contribute only a third as much money to their children's college expenses compared to married parents, The New York Times reported. Divorced parents' incomes, however, are about half as much as those of parents who have stayed married. Remarried parents, whose incomes are about the same as those of married parents, give about half of what married parents contribute.

"What we're seeing is that the cost burden of higher education is shifted to the student in families with divorced or remarried parents," said Ruth Lopez Turley, associate professor of sociology at Rice University and co-author of the study. "The findings are troubling for college-bound students with divorced, separated or remarried parents. They are at a disadvantage because they need to shoulder more of the costs of their education."

Researchers found that marital status often determined the amount parents contributed toward college expenses, even when taking into account variables like parents' income and education. For instance, married parents contributed about 8 percent of their income toward college tuition and other costs, meeting 77 percent of their children's financial needs. By contrast, divorced parents contributed about 6 percent of their earnings, meeting only 42 percent of their children's college expenses. Remarried parents, meanwhile, contributed 5 percent of what they made and met 53 percent of their children's needs.

"We expected the remarried parents to make smaller contributions, but we didn't expect the difference to be that big," Turley told Inside Higher Ed.

According to researchers, these college students oftentimes bear the responsibility of supporting themselves, which puts them at a disadvantage when competing with their peers who lack the same financial concerns.

"A lot of these students are having to either get into a lot of debt or work more while they are in college, and both of those things are associated with a lower likelihood of completing college," Turley said. "You can just see the way this story continues."

The research was based on data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study in the 1995-1996 academic year. It was the most recent set of data detailed enough to reach meaningful conclusions about the trends they sought to observe, The Washington Post reported. The article, "Contributions to College Costs by Married, Divorced, and Remarried Parents," appears in the November Issue of Journal of Family Issues.


Compiled by Alexander Gong

Sources:

"An Unequal Burden," insidehighered.com, December 10, 2010, Dan Berrett

"Divorced parents contribute less toward college," voices.washingtonpost.com, December 10, 2010, Daniel de Vise

"The Financial Impact of Divorce on College Students," bucks.blogs.nytimes.com, December 15, 2010, Jennifer Saranow Schultz

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