In fact, 61% of Americans expect friends and family members to contribute to college funds for a son or daughter, according to Fidelity Investments.
In addition, 19% of parents want their closest friends and family members to forgo a traditional holiday gift this year and instead contribute to a college fund such as a college 529 plan.
Parents need the help, as only 34% of U.S. families are on track to cover their college savings costs. Cash gifts around the holidays could add some much-needed fuel to those college plans -- if families can convince their loved ones to pony up some cash come Christmas Day.
"Contributing to a child's college savings fund is easy to do, and a gift more valuable to their future than anything you can buy in a mall," says Keith Bernhardt, vice president of college planning at Fidelity. "With many families still far behind their savings goals, monetary gifts can add up over time and make a difference in the years to come."
Bernhardt says families with children of any age -- from newborns to those getting ready to head to campus -- can open a 529 in a child's name and manage how the savings are used for higher education expenses. "For parents making gifts to their own child's 529 account, direct deposit is a reliable way to help ensure savings are consistently contributed. Friends and family wanting to gift to a child's 529 account can give money to the parents, specifying it's for their college savings."