It’s almost time for the back to school discussions and families are gearing up to chat about one of the most important topics, money. As students get ready to enter college for the first time, the cost of tuition, books, and room and board is a concern for many parents and students. As a parent of a new college student, here are the top 4 things you should know about paying for college.
1. Discover the Options Available
When I graduated high school I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue, but I knew that I wanted to go to college. My parents agreed. According to a recent study by Discover Student Loans 81% of adults with college age children feel that college is very important to their children’s future. The concrete data supports this emotion. The overall employment rate for those with a college education (72.5%) is higher than for those with only a high school diploma (54.6%). (Source)
Researching the available options is the first step to helping your child fund a college education. According to the Discover Student Loans survey, only 9% of parents say they can afford all of their child’s education. To cover the costs, you may need to look into financial aid and other borrowing options.
2. Understand Co-Sign versus Parent Loan
While it may be tempting to borrow the full cost of your child’s college education on your own, it’s important to understand the difference between co-signing a loan and borrowing a federal Parent PLUS loan.
An option from financial aid is a federal Parent PLUS loan. However, many people don’t realize there are limits to federal student loans. The limit to what you can borrow is determined by the school and factors in any other financial aid your child may receive.
To help your child with expenses, you can also co-sign a private student loan for your child. When you co-sign a loan, you agree to joint liability for the loan. While your child will be responsible for payments, you are guaranteeing that those payments will continue. Be sure that you are ready to take on full responsibility for the loan if your child cannot make payments. It is important to look for the right loan for your situation. In addition, search for loans that offer rewards for good grades, on-time payments, and zero fees.
3. Encourage Alternative Funding Options
Before you immediately reach for a student loan to cover all expenses, take the time to maximize grants, scholarships, and other free financial aid. I applied for scholarships and used those funds to offset the cost of college. There are also work-study programs to help with college costs. If your child is not eligible for work-study programs, consider suggesting a part time job to help with costs.
4. Help Your Child Research Majors
Choosing a major is just as important if not more important than choosing what college to attend. A study from CareerBuilder.com shows that one-third of college-educated workers do not work in occupations related to their degree. In order to make sure your child does not leave school with a degree they won’t use and will likely not appreciate, it’s important to research majors to find one that fits passions with desired lifestyle.
The decision to attend college is a large one and it comes with a subsequent conversation about how to pay for college. There are many options and it is important to research them fully. Check into financial aid, grants, scholarships, and finally look into private student loan options to help cover the costs. Making the decision is not easy but there is no doubt that a college degree is worth it. See more from the Discover Student Loan study by clicking here.
This post was created as a part of the Discover partnership program.