College Savings Statistics

Last Updated: July 12, 2021 by Melanie Hanson

Report Highlights. As the cost of a college education increases so too is the amount of money parents are saving for college – nearly $2,118 more in the last 5 years.  

  • Americans on average want to save $57,981 for their child’s college expenses. 
  • On average, parents saved $5,143 last year for their kid’s college.
  • 30% of saving accounts are 529 plans – the largest majority. 
  • On average, Americans have saved $28,679 in their 529 accounts.

American Savings by Account Type on EducationData

General Statistics 

Americans generally put only 40% of their college savings into a college specific savings account. The amount of savings parents put into their child’s college account highly depends on income level as well as race. Only a minority of families that save for college speak to their child about cost-reduction strategies. 

  • On average, parents save $5,143 annually for their kid’s college. 
  • 39% of parents have talked with their child about how cost may affect which college they can afford. 
  • 26% of parents have discussed whether their child will live at home or at school based on the cost of the college. 
  • 86% of families use parental savings accounts to help pay for college. 
  • 49% of families use student savings accounts to help pay for college. 

Annual Savings on EducationData

Parental Saving Statistics

As the main driving force behind college savings, nearly 2/3rds of parents who expect their child to attend college are saving or creating plans to cover the costs. Parents do not typically consult financial experts on how to save for college. As a result, parents may overestimate how much of the cost they can actually cover.  

  • 64% of parents are either saving, planning or doing both for college.
  • 36% of parents are neither planning nor saving.
  • 69% of families will not use retirement savings for college.
  • 21% of families will use retirement savings if needed. 
  • Americans seek to save $55,342 on average for their child’s college expenses. 
  • On average, parents expect to pay roughly 30% of their child’s college expenses. 
  • On average, parents actually pay 10% of their child’s college expenses. 

Average Saving by Age on EducationData

529 Plans

Also known as Qualified Tuition Programs, 529 Plans derive their name from section 529 of the IRS tax code. Each state except Wyoming has its own iteration of the 529 Plan. There are two types of 529 Plans – savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. 

  • There are 14.83 million 529 accounts in the nation.
  • Those 14.83 million accounts amount to $425.2 billion.
  • On average, Americans have saved $28,679 in their 529 accounts.
  • There are 7,607 private accounts associated with national college 529 Plans. 
  • The 7,607 accounts amount to $410.6 million.
  • 38% of parents were aware of 529 plans.
  • Consequently, 54% of parents were unaware of 529 plans.
529 Plans by State
State Number of 529 Accounts Total Cash Amount
Alabama 101,077 $2,378,974,957
Alaska 316,021 $10,427,687,241
Arkansas 46,674 $1,165,322,879
Arizona 93,219 $1,858,223,146
California 357,542 $11,799,710,274
Colorado 379,325 $10,809,104,253
Connecticut 171,060 $4,917,385,245
Washington D.C. 33,576 $960,120,044
Delaware 22,600 $734,200,533
Florida 599,720 $14,262,074,628
Georgia 198,046 $4,181,553,139
Hawaii 4,940 $100,717,310
Idaho 42,530 $675,524,277
Illinois 475,320 $16,273,133,783
Indiana 402,866 $6,248,436,170
Iowa 293,662 $6,591,994,029
Kansas 276,313 $9,044,589,836
Kentucky 91,043 $1,566,472,203
Maine 421,910 $12,909,528,986
Maryland 339,906 $9,402,188,352
Massachusetts 227,115 $8,070,819,316
Michigan 370,214 $9,067,452,168
Minnesota 81,120 $1,759,119,060
Missouri 180,347 $3,902,922,425
Mississippi 30,278 $619,540,592
Montana 13,470 $221,209,584
Nebraska 286,742 $6,601,295,401
Nevada 966,688 $35,699,922,838
New Hampshire 790,730 $22,693,053,661
New Jersey 249,592 $6,530,571,417
New Mexico 115,522 $2,597,172,466
New York 1,190,498 $42,171,642,412
North Carolina 155,589 $3,257,418,007
North Dakota 46,437 $610,874,194
Ohio 666,237 $15,385,537,578
Oklahoma 71,905 $1,357,152,941
Oregon 212,927 $4,559,468,536
Pennsylvania 250,655 $6,393,052,588
Rhode Island 190,962 $5,299,336,179
South Carolina 199,142 $5,246,724,067
South Dakota 26,875 $1,021,940,928
Tennessee 21,072 $256,543,699
Texas 111,725 $2,261,902,320
Utah 436,214 $18,826,421,980
Virginia 2,909,723 $94,383,756,199
Vermont 25,297 $538,706,084
Washington 91,297 $2,428,711,075
Wisconsin 315,655 $6,748,873,021
West Virginia 116,713 $3,074,151,795

Other Savings Accounts

For this section, the type of education savings account being referred to is a Coverdell account. Another account used for college savings is an IRA – this stands for investment retirement account. Traditionally used for retirement, IRA’s can also be used for college savings. Traditional savings accounts are also used for college savings, they offer the most flexibility with how the funds can be used – they need not be spent strictly for educational expenses.

  • Coverdell ESA assets have invested $7 billion in mutual funds. 
  • In 2013, 6% of individuals between the ages of 25-55 made unpenalized early withdrawals from their IRA’s – higher education was cited as a reason for early withdrawals.   
  • The 6% of individuals between the ages of 25-55  withdrew roughly $20 billion.
  • Americans on average save $226 annually in CD accounts for college.   
  • Americans on average save $99 annually in cryptocurrency for college.
  • Americans save on average $1,008 a year in general savings accounts for their child’s college. 
  • Parents save $411 annually in investment accounts.

Racial Saving Statistics

This dataset covers statistics for White, Black, and Hispanic populations. On average, White families have more money saved up for college followed by Black families and then Hispanic families. 

  • 31% of White families’ college saving funds are in 529 accounts. 
  • 17% of Black families’ college saving funds are in 529 accounts.
  • 17% of Hispanic families’ college saving funds are in 529 accounts.
  • White families seek to save $55,124 for college.
  • Black families seek to save $56,541 for college.
  • Hispanic families seek to save $41,204 for college.
  • White families save on average $6,211 annually for college.
  • Black families save on average $4,079 annually for college. 
  • Hispanic families save on average $3,930 annually for college.
Parents’ Confidence in Meeting College Costs
Race Confident Not Confident
White 49% 51%
Black 55% 45%
Hispanic 55% 45%

Savings by Family Education Level

In general, the higher the parents’ education level, the more they will save for their child’s future college expenses. Education level also affected how much parents think they need to save to secure their child’s college expenses. 

  • Parents without a college degree predominantly invest in pre-paid plans – roughly 26%. 
  • Parents with an Associate’s degree mostly invest in 529 plans – 13% of them. 
  • Parents with a Bachelor’s degree mostly invest in 529 plans – 38% of them.
  • Without a degree, families seek to save $35,984 for their kids’ college. 
  • With an Associate’s degree, families seek to save $32,091 for their kids’ college.
  • With a Bachelor’s degree, families seek to save $74,767 for their kids’ college.    
  • Parents without a college degree save $4,338 annually. 
  • Parents with an Associate’s degree save $5,499 annually.
  • Parents with a Bachelor’s degree save $6,978 annually. 
Parents’ Confidence in Meeting College Costs
Education Level Confident Not Confident
No Degree 41% 59%
Associate’s Degree 44% 56%
Bachelor’s Degree 66% 44%

College Saving Strategies

Some families implement strategies in order to save on the cost of college. The most popular strategy is to save money – which 75% of Americans implement.  

  • 22% of families plan to pay for college using life insurance. 
  • 14% of families plan to pay for college by finishing off their mortgage and freeing their income towards college expenses. 
  • 7% of families plan for their child to be employed with the college their child goes to.
  • 14% of American families plan to save for college by limiting their choices to the most affordable colleges.
  • 23% plan to save using research grants. 
  • 31% plan to save by budgeting the money they currently have. 
  • 4% expect to save money by applying for scholarships.  

Sources

  1. Federal Reserve: Saving for College and Section 529 Plans
  2. College Savings Plan Network: 529 Plan Data
  3. FedFinancial Federal Credit Union: How Much Should I Save For College Calculator? 
  4. EdChoice: Education Savings Accounts (ESAs)
  5. Urban Institute: Understanding College Affordability, Covering Expenses, Savings 
  6. Congressional Research Service Report, Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Ownership: Data and Policy Issues
  7. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA): ESAs and Custodial Accounts
  8. Sallie Mae 2020: How America Pays for College
  9. Sallie Mae 2018: How America Saves for College