Financing a college education is a major concern for most high school seniors as they prepare for graduation, according to a study by Fidelity Investments titled "College Bound and Cost Conscious: A Survey of High School Seniors."

Nearly 70% of seniors said they feel overwhelmed by the high cost of college, with the average cost of four years of college at public or private schools reaching nearly $125,000. Costs are increasing by 5.4% annually, Fidelity said.

A third of high school seniors said they didn't have a college savings account and 49% said they received less grant and scholarship money than they expected, the study found.

“High school seniors recognize the critical difference a college degree can have on their future, yet college costs are weighing heavily on their minds,” said Joe Ciccariello, vice president of Fidelity Personal and Workplace Investing. “This highlights how important it is for families to save early and regularly in a dedicated account and to make sure they get the guidance they need around financing their child’s college education.”

A growing number of seniors say they expect to pay a large portion of the costs themselves and listed working during school (77%), scholarships (77%), loans (55%), savings (54%) and grants (50%) as major funding sources.

“College-bound kids need to be a part of the discussions around paying for college,” said Jeff Troutman, vice president of Fidelity Investments Institutional Services. “When considering financial planning around college costs, financial advisors may want to consider engaging kids along with their parents early on in the planning discussions. This will help reinforce the importance of planning ahead for major expenses and promote the value of good savings habits. Then families can focus on evaluating colleges based on critical factors like academic profile and personal fit versus strictly affordability.”

Eighty percent of seniors think having a college education is a minimum requirement for a decent job, up from 74% who thought so last year, the study said.

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