Graduate school applications and admissions are on the rise. With more and more students pursuing graduate-level education, it begs the question,
Should parents have to foot that bill, too?
Maybe you’ve already committed funds to your child’s undergraduate degree. Or perhaps this is the first time your child is asking for your help with education expenses.
You may find yourself in either situation wondering if you have the resources to fund any part of your child’s graduate studies. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your child before committing anything.
Why Do They Want To Attend Graduate School?
Here’s the big question,
Before enrolling in a graduate program, your child should be able to articulate why this is an important step and goal for them.
You’ve spent so much time trying to instill the importance of setting goals and making purposeful decisions with their money, and graduate school is a significant decision that they shouldn’t take lightly.
Perhaps they need to go to grad school to work in their chosen field. Maybe they’re looking for a career change. Or, perhaps the advanced degree will open up broader career opportunities down the line.
It’s important to ask these questions so you know you’re making an informed decision before handing over your checkbook.
How Will Specific Programs Help Them Reach Their Professional Goals?
Graduate study isn’t necessary for every profession, but it is for some (academia, professorship, research, medical, law, etc.) And with others (business, education), it can help with career mobility, advancement, and other growth opportunities.
You want to ensure that your child knows the “payout” from the degree and has a plan for how it will help them, especially considering how much it costs. According to Education Data, the average cost of a Master’s degree is $66,340.
With such a high price tag and previous student debt from undergrad, they really have to ask themselves if this degree will serve them as they move forward in their career.
If graduate school will not further them in any measurable way towards their goals, then it may not be the right choice. No need for you or your child to put up funds towards time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.
Have They Explored All Of Their Financing Options?
Sometimes the bank of mom and dad is a child’s first and last stop.
But now’s the time for you to see how much thought your child has put into this idea.
First, hear exactly what they’re asking of you. Perhaps the degree program offers a small stipend, and they are asking for you to help supplement living costs, etc. Or maybe they need help covering some tuition costs and living expenses. Actively listening to what they need is step one.
It’s also telling if they’ve done their research and come up with additional funding ideas.
If they are working full time, have they checked with their company to see if they would sponsor all or part of their tuition? For example, Starbucks created the Starbucks College Achievement Plan in 2014 so eligible partners working at least 20 hours a week can earn a degree online through Arizona State University—with full tuition coverage. With this program, your child would also have access to a designated success coach to manage work/school/life balance.
If they haven’t done so, encourage your child to look into if they work for an organization that offers any benefits towards attaining their degree.
Several employers are offering tuition reimbursement as part of their company benefits. Maybe the company contributes a specific dollar amount toward graduate study each year. Before your child takes money from their employer, it’s best to read the fine print. Sometimes companies require a set number of years at the company after receiving graduate training.
Once they’ve exhausted their current employer’s potential resources, have they researched what loan options are available to them? They can take out either federal or private loans or a combination, depending on the program’s cost.
For example, you can only take out $20,500 in federal direct unsubsidized loans for graduate school each year. You can supplement any remaining costs with federal Direct PLUS loans or private student loans.
As you know, not all student loans are created equal. Can they answer the following questions?
- What’s the interest rate, and is it fixed or variable?
- What are the fees for the loan(s)?
- What are the repayment terms for the different loan options?
All of these questions can take the pulse on whether or not your child has seriously considered their funding options.
Are You Willing and Able To Dedicate Extra Funds For Another Degree?
Many families will be lucky enough to help their kids get one degree with little to no debt, but two is incredibly rare.
Say you already redirected the funds you were putting into a 529 plan into maxing out your retirement accounts or paying off debt. It likely doesn’t make sense to move resources away from that area.
As much as you want to help your children out financially, it just may not be the best plan for you, leading to a crucial discerning question.
Is helping your child fund graduate school a priority?
Many parents would do anything for their children, but they must keep their future and needs in mind. If graduate school is a priority and you determine you can help your child financially, great!
However, if it doesn’t make sense for your own financial future, then be honest with them. As we have discussed in this article, other financial options are available, like supplementing living costs, helping them out with food, offering moral support, etc.
If they have not explored a range of financing options, encourage them to do so. If you think of any other ways you can and would like to help them out, that is wonderful!
Maybe you are a sounding board for them as they discern what other financial assistance they will take. If this is a priority, they will leave no stone unturned in their quest for a graduate degree.
Prioritizing Ongoing Financial Wellness
At Chladek Wealth, we want you and your child to experience financial wellness in your lives. We can help you prioritize how and where you spend your money to make the most of your financial future.
Reach out today so we can help you on that journey together.
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 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.