Background: With college tuition and student loan debt rising, high school students and their families are increasingly concerned about “how to” pay for college. To address this, federal/state policy makers encourage individuals to financially prepare for college early in their child’s life. Drawing from social reproduction theory, we anticipate wide inequalities in who engages in college financial preparations and savings and when they begin these activities.
Purpose: This study updates and extends the literature on how families financially prepare for college.
Data: High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), a nationally representative sample of 9th grade students who began high school in 2009.
Research design: We use logistic and multinomial regression to estimate four different outcomes: (1) whether the family plans to help the student pay for college; (2) whether the family has financially prepared for college; (3) whether the family has opened a college savings account; and (4) when families financially prepare for college (kindergarten, elementary, or secondary school).
Results: Our results have implications for social reproduction theory as we find that socioeconomically privileged families have greater likelihoods of financially preparing their children for college before or soon after their children enter formal schooling.
Conclusions: Current policy efforts to encourage college financial preparation may disproportionately benefit already-privileged families and likely exacerbate educational inequalities.