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Family Characteristics and Parents' Contribution Toward College Expenses

Cliff, Norman
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Board, Family Characteristics, Parent Attitudes, Parent Financial Contribution, Student Costs


This report recounts the results of extensive analyses of family characteristics correlated with amount and mode of parental contribution to college and attempts to interpret them in terms of a conceptual framework. Within a heterogeneous group, the amount that the family contributes is correlated most highly with family income, with parental offer, and finally with amount of scholarship and cost of college. Other variables, such as indebtedness, assets, and schooling expenses at the time of application add to the prediction to a less important degree. Even when all these variables are used to estimate contribution, the residual variation remains high. When subgroups which were more homogeneous with respect to qualitative characteristics were formed from the total group, it was found that amount of parental contribution was more predictable for salaried than business families and for boys than for girls. The results are interpreted as meaning that amount of parental contribution is the resultant of parental ability to pay, parental willingness to pay, and the amount that needs to be paid. The latter depends in part on student ability and willingness to earn his or her own way. All of these variables are felt to be complex.

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