Americans are reconsidering investing in education due to COVID-19, Edward Jones finds
News Release | Sept. 1, 2020
Amid concerns over value and quality, respondents’ reevaluation of education also exposes major knowledge gaps in savings tools
St. Louis (Sept. 1, 2020) – As Americans head back to school, virtual learning or a hybrid approach, 36 percent of adults are reconsidering their investments in higher education amid COVID-19, according to a recent study by financial-services firm Edward Jones, conducted by Morning Consult. Eighty percent of those currently saving for an in-person, four-year college or university cited concerns that the quality of education may suffer if universities move to online learning, including access to tools and resources necessary for education (47%), lack of community aspect at school, such as sports teams, clubs and on-campus housing (35%) and required in-person lab time (31%).
Due to the current climate, 32% of respondents said they are more likely to attend an online-only college or university, and 20% of respondents said they are more likely to skip higher education and look for full-time employment or internships instead.
"In this period of uncertainty, it is more important than ever for Americans to be aware of all the available education savings options," said Tim Burke, Edward Jones principal responsible for education savings. "As learning environments and needs change in light of the pandemic, it’s critical to keep in mind that higher education will continue to be important, so proper steps to save should remain a top priority.”
529 plan awareness and understanding still lags
With the value of college under a microscope, only 45% of Americans recognize a 529 plan as an education savings tool, up from the firm’s 2019 study*, where awareness stood at 33%. Of those who correctly identified a 529 plan as an education savings vehicle, there was still a significant misunderstanding of the plan’s usage, as only 29% properly said it could be used for more than higher education.
Roughly one-third of Americans were aware of the uses for 529 plans (29%); 28% recognized that 529s can be used for K-12 expenses and 29% reported awareness of the features and potential tax benefits that 529 plans offer. When it comes to savings vehicles, respondents indicated that they choose to save for education via a personal savings account (30%) rather than a 529 plan (21%).
Importance of saving for education recognized, but obstacles remain
Behind retirement (46%) and emergency funds (44%), their child’s education (21%) was the third-most frequently cited life event that Americans are currently saving for and prioritizing, followed by their own education (11%).
Although Americans recognize the importance of saving for education, there is a gap between actual savings and comfort with what they have saved. Forty percent of adults do not feel they are saving enough to reach their goal for future education expenses. However, instead of increasing education savings contributions, 34% of adults said they will contribute the same amount to future K-12 education savings in the next five years. Emergency savings, however, will take a larger share of the pocket due to the current COVID-19 environment, with more Americans citing this as an area where they will contribute more in the next five years (34%).
"Despite the current concerns about the return on investment regarding education, Americans would be wise not to lose sight of the benefits tools like 529 plans can provide in their ability to be redeployed for certain qualified expenses like K-12, higher education, apprenticeships, student loan repayments and education-related expenses, like a new laptop or internet access for those who choose to learn from home," said Nela Richardson, Edward Jones Investment Strategist. "As goals change, it’s essential to speak with your financial advisor, who can help you prioritize your short-term and long-term savings goals and the most effective, tax-efficient tools to help you reach them.”
As part of its ongoing effort to increase financial resilience around topics like education savings, Edward Jones has established the Edward Jones Financial Fitness program using EverFi's online curriculum. The program includes free financial education resources for Edward Jones clients, associates and communities. This complements the firm's existing Financial Fitness program for high school students and teachers in 55 schools. Through the partnership, Edward Jones recently sponsored EverFi’s “LearnOn,” a virtual professional development conference for 3,000 teachers nationwide.
For more information about education savings, go to www.edwardjones.com/529.
This survey was conducted by global data intelligence company Morning Consult among a national sample of 2,220 adults from July 7-July 8, 2020.
*This year's awareness level is "up from the firm’s 2019 study," conducted by Caravan, "where awareness stood at 33%."
About Edward Jones
Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P., a Fortune 500 company headquartered in St. Louis, provides financial services in the U.S. and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Every aspect of the firm's business, from the investments offered to the location of branch offices, caters to individual investors. The firm's 19,000-plus financial advisors serve more than 7 million clients with a total of $1.2 trillion in client assets under care. Visit www.edwardjones.com or the recruiting website at careers.edwardjones.com. Member SIPC.