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With the cost of higher education skyrocketing, student loans are putting Americans farther and farther into debt. While most of that can be blamed on the price of college going way up, some of the blame also goes to poor planning by parents. You don’t have to start saving for your child’s education the minute they are born, but there are things you can do to prepare for the huge financial burden that college can bring. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Your child’s education should be your priority, and getting them into the school of their dreams is of course the main concern. But is it worth paying an extra $200,000 for a school that has a similar program to a more affordable school? Not necessarily. When choosing a college to send your child to, make sure that cost is a factor when deciding. Many schools, like Ivy League schools, can be overpriced, especially if your child is going into an industry with low pay or high competition.
While it’s true your child can refinance their student loans down the road, it’s important not to saddle them with more than they can reasonably pay off.
Also, don’t equate an expensive school with a high-paying job after graduation, especially in this job market. Make sure you are making a sound financial decision when choosing schools.
The one thing parents are often blindsided by is the Expected Family Contribution, which is the number that the family will have to contribute beyond federal loan programs. Most parents don’t even see this number until they fill out the FAFSA forms, but you can check that number much earlier, like when your child is a freshman or sophomore. Make sure you know how much you’ll have to contribute before you make a decision on a school.
One of the unexpected downsides of college being so expensive these days is that competition for scholarships has gone way up. Parents and students are trying to supplement their education without taking out a huge amount of loans, and scholarships are a great way to do that. But according to SimpleTuition.com, only 7% of undergraduates receive private scholarships each year. This is why you should never bank of getting scholarships to fund your child’s education. The extra competition for scholarships has made it very hard to qualify for one, especially the bigger ones. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for them; it just means you should have alternative means to pay for your child’s education.
Paying to raise your child is cost enough, so many parents don’t put aside money for higher education and then have to take out massive loans to help pay for school. But even putting away a little bit of money every year can make things much easier when it’s time for your kids to go to school. 529 plans make it easier as well. Upromise gives you cash back into a 529 account (savings account for higher education) when you buy everyday items through their online store, eat at participating restaurants or even refer friends and family to their service. You can save for your child’s future without even putting money aside yourself.