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Posted at 5:13 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Divorced parents contribute less toward college

By Daniel de Vise

A new study by researchers from Rice University and the University of Wisconsin finds that divorced and separated parents contribute much less toward the costs of their children's education than married parents.

In other words, children of divorce end up paying an inordinate share of their own college costs.

Researchers Ruth N. López Turley and Matthew Desmond found that divorced parents contributed one-third as much money toward college costs than married parents, $1,500 versus $4,700 a year. Parents who divorced and then remarried likewise chipped in less toward children's college costs, $2,490 a year.

Children of divorce -- whether their parents remarry or not -- shoulder more of the burden of their own college education.

"In aggregate, children whose parents are married must cover about 23% of college expenses themselves, but children with remarried parents must shoulder 47%
themselves, and those from divorced households need to come up with a full 58% of the cost," the authors write.

The findings "are troubling for college-bound students with divorced, separated or remarried parents," especially given shifts in financial aid policy that require families to contribute a greater share of the cost of college.

The article, "Contributions to College Costs by Married, Divorced, and Remarried Parents," appears in the November issue of Journal of Family Issues.

I learned of the study through coverage in InsideHigherEd.

It is a new finding based on quite old data. The authors used the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study in the 1995-1996 academic year, which is evidently the latest such data set with sufficient detail to yield the sorts of comparisons the researchers sought to make.

The reason is partly one of income: Divorced parents earn less than married parents. In the year studied, the median income of married parents, $57,724, was nearly twice the income of divorced or separated parents. Remarried parents made about as much as married parents, but they nonetheless contributed a smaller sum toward college expenses.

"As a proportion of their income, married parents contributed about 8%, divorced parents contributed about 6%, and remarried parents contributed only 5%," the study says.

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By Daniel de Vise  | December 10, 2010; 5:13 PM ET
Categories:  Aid, Finance, Research, Students  | Tags:  Journal of Family Issues divorce study, children of divorce pay more college costs, divorced parents pay fewer college costs, study on divorced parents paying for college  
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Comments

This is of course speaking of averages. There are also divorced parents who start careers for the purpose of supporting their children's college education. As women's career opportunities and earnings potential increase, as they undoubtedly have since these data were collected, I would guess that there would be a smaller difference in support.

Posted by: bettina2 | December 11, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

This is of course speaking of averages. There are also divorced parents who start careers for the purpose of supporting their children's college education. As women's career opportunities and earnings potential increase, as they undoubtedly have since these data were collected, I would guess that there would be a smaller difference in support.

Posted by: bettina2 | December 11, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Recent research finds that children of divorce not only pay more for college, but they pay more in poor health. Specifically, children of divorced parents have double the risk of stroke than kids whose parents stay married:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/2010/11/divorce-and-your-kids-will-have-double-the-risk-of-stroke-1.html

Posted by: s_mceachern | December 11, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm the oddball here. My parents are divorced (one remarried) and they still equally split my education costs between them. In fact, I usually ended up paying less than my counterparts with married parents.

Posted by: tfisher1 | December 13, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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