Where parents pay the most for college (Hint: it's not the U.S.)

5 stunning stats about college debt
5 stunning stats about college debt

American parents pay a lot to send their kids to college, but parents in the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore pay even more.

Parents in the UAE say they spend an average of $18,360 a year -- more than those in any other country -- on their child's college education, according to a new survey from HSBC. Americans say they're spending $14,678 annually, still double the world average.

The heavy cost shouldered by parents in the UAE reflects the fact that many families there send their children to college abroad, said Michael Schweitzer, the Global Head of Sales and Distribution at HSBC.

And in Hong Kong and Singapore, it's a cultural expectation that parents provide their children with a higher education. "It's a very honorable thing to do," Schweitzer said.

Related: How I graduated from college debt-free, without being rich

In both of those countries, a very small percentage of students chip in with any money at all to fund their college education, according to the report.

That's not the case in the United States, despite the bad rap American teenagers get. About 37% of college students contribute to their education costs -- second only to Canada where 39% help pay.

But providing their children with a good education is important for American parents, too. Three in five surveyed said they would be willing to take on debt to do so, and many said they would stop saving for their own retirement or stop paying their rent or mortgage if they had to.

Related: Our sons' $189,000 student debt is delaying our retirement

To avoid getting stuck in that pickle, Scweitzer suggests saving for your kids' college education now.

"The cost of deferral is massive," he said.

About 70% of students currently leave school in debt. But sometimes, students find out that they still face a funding gap even after borrowing the maximum amount in low-interest, federal student loans. In that case, a parent may have to decide whether it's worth borrowing even more money to help.

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