Earning a degree is often part of the “American Dream,” making it an accomplishment worth working toward. And while graduating from college is a collective dream, the cost of obtaining it can be somewhat of a nightmare.
On average, earning an undergraduate degree results in about $36,510 in student loan debt. For those earning a master’s? That number nearly doubles to $71,318 (according to educationdata.org).
Keep in mind that the type of degree one earns can play a significant role in accumulating debt. Doctors, for example, can see well over $200,000 in student loan debt throughout their academic careers.
But the question is:
How did higher education get to this point?
The cost of tuition at a four-year public college has risen 200% between 1988 and 2018 (according to marketplace.org). So the education your parents could afford by working through school could set you or your child back financially for several decades.
Even though college costs are on the rise, there are ways to reduce the financial burden of obtaining higher education.
4 Ways to Address Student Loan Debt Management
Here are a few ways to avoid or reduce student loan debt – without sacrificing quality education.
Find Opportunities for “Free” Money
The more no-strings-attached money you can obtain for educational expenses, the less you or your child will need to take out in student loans. As you prepare to pay for college, always watch these opportunities for “free” money.
Scholarships: Local townships, your favorite cereal brand, national academic organizations – you can find scholarship opportunities almost anywhere. Even if it’s not widely advertised, many businesses and organizations across the country offer scholarship money. These can range from a couple of hundred bucks to tens of thousands of dollars. Just remember, the bigger the scholarship, the bigger the competition. Encourage your student to apply to as many applicable scholarship programs as they can.
Grants: Like scholarships, grants are considered a “gift aid” as they do not need to be paid back. Grants are typically broken down into federal, state, school, or private grants and are awarded based on financial need or merit. Most require families to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, but some may request additional paperwork.
Financial Aid: The importance of filling out that FASFA form can not be understated. This form is your family’s greatest opportunity to receive free money toward your child’s education. You’ll want to work directly with the school your child is interested in attending as well to inquire about additional aid opportunities. If your family has received financial aid in the past, but circumstances have changed, you can appeal your aid package. Appealing may be viable if your income was affected by Covid-19, you and your spouse have since divorced, or other life changes have impacted your financial situation. Having your financial aid reevaluated in light of recent events may yield more financial assistance for your child.
Make Practical College Decisions
It’s human nature to think, “the higher the price tag, the greater the quality.” And as a parent, you want the best for your child. This well-intentioned thought may mean assuming the most expensive school is the best option. Before getting caught up in prestige and price tags, sit down with your child to discuss what they really want out of their education.
You may find that the most expensive school does not offer the college experience they’re looking for. Just because Private School X is $50,000 more expensive than Public School Y, it doesn’t mean specific programs, offerings, or degree notoriety are really all that better. Be practical when it comes to helping your child pick a school. Compare prices and scholarship opportunities offered through each school carefully.
Start Saving Early
Under most circumstances, a family has only a limited number of years to save for college. The earlier you create a plan, the more time you have to grow your college savings.
Common types of accounts families use to save for college include:
- 529 plans
- Coverdell education savings accounts (ESA)
- Custodial accounts
- Roth IRA
Working with your financial planner, your family can establish a college savings strategy that may include several saving and investment opportunities. If possible, start working with your financial planner as early as you can.
Create a Comprehensive College Plan
With rising tuition costs, it’s possible your savings will not cover all of your child’s future college expenses. Our advice? Be prepared to make up the difference.
Having a game plan regarding student loans is crucial. That’s why working with a financial planner is important. At Chladek Wealth, we understand the desire to send your kid off to college without derailing their (or your) financial future. Developing a loan plan before stepping foot on campus is paramount to being an intentional and prepared borrower.
We’ll work with you from the start of your savings journey through graduation and beyond to seamlessly integrate your college expenses into the rest of your broader financial picture. As a parent, you should have the power to send your kids to school without sacrificing your goals.
Looking for a head start? Access your Free College Money Report to learn the critical information every family needs to know during their college planning journey.
Preparing Financially for Your Child’s Education
Seeing your child off to college is a momentous milestone in a parent’s life, and it shouldn’t be overshadowed by the worry or burden of student loan debt. There are things you can start doing right now to help ease future college costs.
We encourage any parent worried about student loan debt management to schedule a quick chat with us. Together, we can review your current savings, develop a plan and monitor its progress.
The contents of this article are for general information and educational purposes and should not be construed as specific investment, financial planning, tax, accounting, or legal advice. Please consult with a professional advisor before taking any action based on the contents of this article. All investment and financial planning strategies involve the risk of loss that you should be prepared to bear. We cannot guarantee any investment performance whatsoever, and past performance is not indicative of potential future returns.