People are very bad about planning for college. According to a report, “Planning for College: A Consumer Approach to the Higher Education Marketplace,” by MassINC, a Massachusetts think tank, paying for college is not only expensive, but incredibly complicated. This might explain why no one does it very well:

Choosing the best savings plan is challenging. To be clear, parents are not deciding among only three savings options; each of the 50 states has at least one 529 [tax free college savings] plan. Currently, there are a 118 different 529s that anyone can access.

These savings plans have many parts and it’s very difficult for parents to truly make an informed decision:

They are managed by different brokerage houses, have different investment strategies, different fees, and varying records of performance. While private websites aim to help families make informed choices, parents must make decisions with complicated or incomplete information.

What’s more, it’s very hard for families to figure out how much they’ll actually have to pay to send their child to college, despite much effort in this area. And just try to figure out the graduation rate.

Clearly MassINC is talking about a very complicated problem with many parts to address. A little transparency on the part of colleges might help a lot, however.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer