For many parents, saving for college is becoming more like a personal version of America's national debt crisis. Parents are ignoring reality and failing to address the tough issues that confront them and their children, a new national survey suggests.
In its sixth annual College Savings Indicator study, investment giant Fidelity found that a minority of families look at the whole picture when considering college and how to pay for it.
"Currently, only 31 percent of parents with college-bound children are considering the total cost of college, graduating with debt, the impact of school selection and how the major their children choose could affect job prospects and earning potential," according to the survey. "Of those families addressing these tough issues, 61 percent are actively making changes to their plans to better manage potential post-graduation debt."
To battle to the rising costs, 38 percent of families are opting for less-expensive colleges, 28 percent are planning to rely more heavily on financial aid and 16 percent are asking their children to change majors to secure better salaries after graduation.
Kelly Wickham, an educator in Springfield, Ill., and mother of four children ages 17 to 26, told ABC News she is not contributing to her children's college costs. Instead, she is preparing them to manage their finances so they can manage loan debt after they graduate.
"They are using a lot of disposable income on things like music, clothes, and giant coffee drinks. As a mom I am trying to help them so they do not accumulate that debt later," said Wickham, a parenting blogger for Babble.com, owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News
Now that she has learned from her older children, she is planning differently for her youngest kids.
"I'm expecting my children to live with me longer to get on their feet - which does not thrill me," Wickham said with a laugh. "I'll do it but it's a different way of parenting."
According to the survey by Fidelity, 78 percent of parents don't want to burden their children with "hefty" student loans.
Graduates from the class of 2010 left school with an average of $25,250 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access and Success Project on Student Debt.
Though recent graduates have struggled to find jobs despite being armed with a college degree, 78 percent of parents report they are optimistic their children will find a job in their chosen field within six months, Fidelity found.
Wickham said she is not optimistic that her children will get a job in the field of their choice once they graduate, in part, because her oldest child struggled after she finished school.
"Now I tell them, 'I don't think you're going to get a job in your field. You may have to be willing to keep that part-time job from high school so you can have some income.'"