We hear it often in the news: college is too expensive and student loan debt is crippling graduates. While both of these are true for some, it doesn’t have to be the norm for your child. Reconsider your perspective as you check out these myths about paying for college.
The cost of college is too high.
It’s true that the cost of college is more expensive than it’s ever been. But a less expensive option is community college. Average tuition costs for a Nebraska community college program are roughly $3,000 per year. Plus tack on another $1,000 for books. That can be much more manageable compared to a $30,000 four-year private college.
Consider going to and completing a community college program, where you can earn a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree in the course of two years. And if you really want a bachelor’s degree, you can transfer. But be careful – freshman of 4-year schools are typically offered more financial aid than transfers. And you must be sure that the credits you received from your community college will transfer to your college/university. Otherwise, you just spent cash on classes you’ll have to retake.
Lastly, consider keepin’ ‘em at home. Room and board is $8,000-10,000 on average each year. This is a hard choice, especially if you had the traditional campus life experience and want the same for your child. But you’re already paying the mortgage or rent on your own place, so save a second payment and keep your kid in the basement – for now.
My student is a star athlete. He/she will get a full-ride athletic scholarship.
It may surprise you to learn that very few high school athletes play at the college level. Only 2% of high school athletes earn athletic scholarships. Ouch. This can be tough-hitting news.
Your child is more likely to receive academic or need-based scholarships (and remember – if they do want to play athletics, they need good grades to compete, too). If your child is serious about playing athletics in college, check out the NCAA Eligibility Center for academic requirements.
Student loan debt is outrageous.
I completely agree – student loan debt is outrageous today. Average debt load for a graduate from a 4-year school in Nebraska is $26,585. But research proves the long-term financial benefits of a college degree outweigh a reasonable monthly student loan payment. And you don’t have to be in average debt.
There is a cap on how much you can borrow in federal student loans. Once you hit these maximums, you’ll have to get a private loan – and they nearly always have higher interest rates, compound interest quicker, and don’t have as many protections in place as federal loans. Get the truth about how much your child can borrow and what an average monthly student loan payment will look like.
Don’t wait. Be careful to prepare.
We all hope for big scholarships for our children, but the reality is that may not pan out. Continue to hope, but prepare for the worst. If you expect your child to go to college, you should also have an expectation that your family should be saving for it now.
Expenses are tight for most of us every month, but consider what you can cut from your monthly budget. Even a small amount can contribute significantly. If you saved $50 per month beginning your child’s 8th-grade year, you could have $3,000 in a savings account by the time he/she begins college. And a 529 college savings plan could help you earn interest off those funds – and tax benefits.
Don’t let the cost of college and student loan debt scares frame your perspective for helping your child pay for their education. Take control now and learn more about paying for college.