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Sorry, Junior: retirement trumps college savings for more Americans

paying for college

According to a survey by COUNTRY Financial, 81 percent of Americans say the U.S. Department of Education's average expected level of student loan debt, $29,000, is too high.

In fact, 26 percent of respondents say a college education is not a good investment, given the rising costs--that's a seven point increase from 2010, and it's the largest number of people to feel that way in the survey's four-year history.

Similarly, only 58 percent now believe college is a good investment. That's a significant drop from 81 percent in 2008.

"It's easy to see why Americans are uncertain about college spending, especially since the national student loan debt is at an all-time high," Keith Brannan, COUNTRY Financial's vice president of financial security planning, said in a statement. "However, college is a long-term investment and having a degree significantly increases your earning potential."

At the same time, 46 percent of Americans says it's more important to save for their own retirement than for a child's education. That's a three point increase from 2010, and a four point increase from 2009. "It's encouraging Americans are increasingly seeing the necessity of saving for their own retirements," Brannan said. "Regardless of age, you can always borrow money for college, but no one will lend you money to retire."

Most "Generation Y" adults, those currently aged 18 to 29, disagree with that statement. Sixty-six percent of them say saving for a child's education is more important than saving for retirement (18 percent).

Only 58 percent of Generation Y adults say children should get a part-time job to help pay for college--that's at least 20 points lower than any other age group. Similarly, 23 percent say parents should foot the entire bill for a child's college education--that's two points higher than in 2010, and at least eight points higher than other age groups.

The COUNTRY Financial report is based on a telephone survey of 3,000 Americans compiled by independent research firm Rasmussen Reports, LLC.

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