Parents who are saving for their children's college education appear to be losing sleep over the same horrible scenario: Their child reaches college age and all that saving and investing of the past 18 years has been sucked away by declining markets.

Most parents, according to a survey released today by AEGON are gripped with anxiety about their children's post-high school education, fearing that tuition costs will continue to sky-rocket while markets tank. Fifty-seven percent said they worry that fluctuating markets will detract from college savings and 87% said tuition costs will be "astronomical" by the time their children reach college. Thirty-nine percent of the respondents said they will never be able to save enough for their children's education, according to the study, which was conducted by Yankelovich Partners/ Harris Interactive.

All of this fretting has apparently left parents feeling inadequate in the face of what they see as a dreary scenario. And they are unwilling to gamble with the money they do manage to save. Eighty-five percent say some investment vehicles are simply too risky for their children's college funds. Seventy-five percent said they know some or very little about what's necessary to make wise investment choices. But few, only about 36%, are seeking advice on the matter from financial planners. The rest are looking to their spouses, friends and financial publications for answers.

Meanwhile, 40% say they save regularly for their kids' college years and another 25% say they have saved in the past, but not recently. Fifty-two percent said they plan to start saving "eventually" and a quarter of those said they'd start socking away money in the next year. In addition, parents who do save are contributing more than $2,500 each year.

The survey, which examined the outlook of 510 U.S. parents, was commissioned by fixed-income investment provider AEGON Institutional Markets. Lynn Allen, who heads the company's institutional business development unit, says the survey demonstrates a need for "stable value products" when it comes to college savings.

Parents are "looking for investments that preserve their value in volatile markets," Allen says. Such plans would guarantee the principal investment and interest earned, she says, which should help parents sleep better at night.

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