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Saving for college tougher for parents

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Today the student loan company Sallie Mae released a report called "How America Saves for College." Marketplace's Eve Troeh is with us live here in our L.A. studio to tell us about it. Good morning, Eve.

EVE TROEH: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: So all right, according to this, how do Americans save for college?

TROEH: Well, with increasing difficulty. Between an economic slump and rising tuition costs, more parents -- especially minority parents -- say they won't be able to help out at all with college costs, and those that can help their kids have less to give. I talked to Brian Fitzgerald at the Business Higher Education Forum about the impact of this scenario.

BRIAN FITZGERALD: This downward trend in ability to save will dramatically influence not only whether students go to college, but where they go to college.

CHIOTAKIS: So where are they going?

TROEH: He says many high-achieving students are actually choosing cheaper, less selective colleges. They might get less attention there and they might actually be likely to graduate, which wouldn't actually be a good return on students' investments. But if students don't get a degree, who knows where the money that went into the college will go then.

CHIOTAKIS: Are families, Eve, still as interested in higher education, even if they can't afford it?

TROEH: Very much so. The study says hat 9 in 10 parents still plan to send their kids to college. But get this -- nearly a quarter of say that they'll pay for college out of their retirement accounts. Most financial planners say that's a really bad idea. Student loans are easier to get than a loan once you retire, so it's an interesting trade off there.

CHIOTAKIS: All right. Marketplace's Eve Troeh here in the studio. Eve, thanks.

TROEH: Thanks.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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