However, the survey commissioned by college lender Sallie Mae found that saving for college remains a top priority even though families are financially stressed these days.
About one-fifth of the 2,092 parents surveyed by Gallup said college savings was a top financial goal, up from 14 percent last year.
Sixty percent of parents asked, about the same number as last year, said they have saved for their children's education.
"The good news is that savers start early and plan to save enough to cover two years at a public university or one year at a private one," said Albert L. Lord, vice chairman and CEO of Sallie Mae.
Lord said those parents indicated they are on track to accumulate an average of $48,367 by the time their child turns 18.
The second annual "How America Saves for College" survey was conducted March through May of this year.