When parents divorce, their children face a number of new and unanticipated challenges. They must adjust to splitting their time between two homes, the possibility of a new step-family, and leading what is often a completely different lifestyle than what they were accustomed to. According to a new study, one hurdle facing college-age children of divorced parents is the funding of their higher education. The study found that divorced or remarried parents generally allocate less money toward their children's college costs, and as a result, their children are left with the bill.

According to the information gathered by researchers from Rice University and the University of Wisconsin, married parents fulfill approximately 77 percent of their children's financial needs during college, and spend eight percent of their annual income to pay for education-related costs. In comparison, divorced parents spend only six percent of their annual income, meeting 42 percent of their children's needs. Further, parents who remarry spend just five percent of their annual incomes to meet 53 percent of their children's needs.

Although the researchers were unable to come up with concrete explanations as to the disparity between married, divorced and remarried parent contributions, they theorize that parents who have gone through or anticipate divorce often have significantly decreased incomes and simply cannot afford to contribute more. And although remarried parents have incomes similar to parents who remain married to one another, a remarriage often comes with a new family and associated financial obligations, leaving less money to spend on college costs.

Regardless of the reason, researcher Ruth Lopez Turley says divorce leaves children at a disadvantage. "What we're seeing is that the cost burden of higher education is shifted to the student in families with divorced or remarried parents. The findings are troubling for college-age students with divorced, separated or remarried parents," she said. "They are at a disadvantage because they need to shoulder more of the cost of their education."

Source: New York Times, "The Financial Impact of Divorce on College Students", Jennifer Saranow Schultz, 15 December 2010