Personal Finance: How divorce cheats college students

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Michelle Singletary
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 10:16 AM

Here's yet another devastating stat about divorce. The Journal of Family Issues recently published a study that found that divorced parents contributed about a third of what married parents contributed to their children's education, reports Dallas News Columnist Pamela Yip.

Married parents contributed about 8 percent of their income to their child's college costs and met 77 percent of their children's financial needs. In contrast, divorced parents contributed about 6 percent of their income and met just 42 percent of their children's financial needs.

"Remarried parents contribute significantly less than married parents, in absolute dollars, as a proportion of their income and as a proportion of the children's financial need, even though they have similar incomes," said Ruth Lopez Turley, associate professor of sociology at Rice University and one of the co-authors of the journal article.

According to Turley, in divorced or remarried families, the cost of college is often shifted to the student.

"They are at a disadvantage because they need to shoulder more of the costs of their education. Their first priority becomes funding their education, not completing their education," she says.

It's not that divorced or remarried parents don't want to pay, researchers found. It's that they pay heavy for their split.

After paying professional fees and then dividing up the marital estate, the exes become more cautious about retaining what assets they have, reports Yip.

Additionally, there are financial obligations for the new family, which require them to further stretch their dollars, the researchers pointed out.

Let's go behind the headlines. This week's Color of Money Question: What impact did your parents' divorce and/or remarriage have on your college funding needs? Send your comment to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put "How Divorce Cheats College Students" in the subject line.

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