Some of you might look at the title with a painful grin of recognition on your face. Too many current parents are still paying on their own student loans while worrying about how to pay for their children's education. New proposed changes to the Student Loan Forgiveness Program allow students with federal loans to pay as they earn, but in most cases the loan cannot be forgiven and timely payments have to be made for at least twenty years.
For expecting and current parents, this does not take away the worry of finding the right plan concerning the future financial needs of their youngsters toward education.
Ideally, parents and caregivers are advised to start saving early. A few dollars a month will add up to quite a presentable sum once the little one is ready to enter college. Even though the accumulated savings are a good start, it might not be enough to last the entire college career depending on the price of the institution that is chosen and the degree level desired.
To start the college selection process, work with your child and educate yourself on student loans, the admission process and set an educational budget. Locate colleges that meet your budget requirements and offer the programming that will best fulfil your child's long-term goals. Many colleges offer financial education programs that can help you with this process. "The SunTrust Center for Financial Education at Wake Technical Community College was developed to financially empower students and parents alike. We want to ensure our community members have the information needed to make financial decision that are in alignment with their longer-term goals," states John Saparilas, Associate Vice President at Wake Technical Community College.
Working while studying at a University is an option. Not only are there various work-studies available (maybe even in the student's field of study), but there are also many part time jobs available. If a student is able to work only 20 hours a week total earnings for the month would be approximately $540 a month earning minimum wage, totaling $6,960 per year. This does not seem much at first, but measured in the light of student loan interest that would have to be paid back on this amount, it is certainly a considerable sum.
Working while in college is not only a way to earn extra money to pay for tuition, it is also a great way to gain some real life work experience, a requirement for many future job positions. Consider a business student working in retail 20 hours a week, and a student that does not. Who do you think will have better chances getting hired for a first position after graduation? With colleges accommodating toward the working student population by offering early bird and evening courses as well as online courses, working during college has never been easier.
Another option is to take advantage of all scholarships and grants available. While scholarships on the premises of sports are hard to get, there are academic scholarships and federal grants in consideration of all kinds of factors. The best way to start is to file the FASFA application (http://www.fafsa-application.com) at the Financial Aid office of the University in question. The financial aid advisor there will be helpful in pointing out other options such as private grants applications as long as he/she is asked. But beware, financial aid advisors do work for the University (for Profit in some cases) and will always have their employers best interest in mind, not necessarily yours.
Asking questions and seeking out second opinions is always a good idea.
Should it happen that your student does not qualify for any Pell Grant or Federal Financial Aid, there are some other options you might consider, but understand their downfalls. Parent loans for example (http://www.forbes.com/sites/troyonink/2013/01/22/use-these-8-loans-to-pay-for-college) offer the parents/patrons the opportunity to take out a loan in their own name toward the education of the child. While this allows the child to stay debt free and start their life post graduate with a clean slate financially, there are definite drawbacks to this option.
- The parent is committed to paying back every dime of the loans taken out.
- Most of these loans do not qualify for any student loan forgiveness.
- Most of these loans do not qualify for pay as you earn options and payment plans are less flexible with little options of deferment.
- Many non-profit organizations arrange student loan payback programs in exchange for years of commitment. If the student loan is in the parents name however, it does not qualify.
Whether you will be able to safe up enough to last for the entire future education of your child or whether you will have to opt for one of the above stated alternatives, keep in mind that the sooner you start the better. Start saving as much as you can, as soon as you can, educate your child about the cost of education (http://www.econedlink.org/lessons/index.php?lid=1103&type=educator), start applying for scholarships during the sophomore year in high school, and educate yourself about available options frequently!
Rebekka Sanders is a National Financial Educators Council's Certified Financial Education Instructor and founder of Money Quest Financial Academy (http://www.moneyquestfa.org/). Access complimentary resources and additional information at http://financialeducatorscouncil.org/