What Parents Can Do to Help Students Avoid Loans For College

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As an 18-year-old, it’s easy to see the world as nothing but possibility. And it’s true! But those possibilities come with costs and trade-offs, which is hard for teens to realize. As a parent, you play a big role in giving a big-picture view as your student makes choices about college. Being strategic about the colleges your student applies to, can help him or her avoid taking out student loans for college.


Don’t Wait Until Senior Year for The Talk

No, not that talk. The talk about money. When you put off the discussion about costs and financial budgeting, you’re missing the chance to set expectations. Students need to realize that their biggest financial boost will come from choosing the right school. They should make wise choices financially, not based on brand names or where their friends are going.

Start Estimating EFC and Net Prices in 9th Grade

We consistently hear from parents that are shocked by the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) they are given. Avoid the sticker shock by starting to work with those numbers in early high school. Also, show your student how to understand the net price of a college, starting their freshman year. They’ll become much more savvy about where they want to apply.

Don’t Procrastinate on FAFSA

No one loves paperwork, and it can be especially hard when your family is involved in a variety of activities. However, the FAFSA is one of the key determinates to how financial aid is done. Your student will be eligible for lower cost loans, loan consolidation, state aid, and much more.

Don’t Rely on “Hope and Pray” as a Strategy

Teens often want to apply to competitive schools to see if they can get admitted. If they are, it’s natural to want to support them in attending this “dream” school. But the dream can quickly become a financial nightmare, for both you and your student. Instead, help them understand the importance of only applying to schools they can afford to attend.

Don’t Pay Out of State Tuition for a Public University

Public universities really stick it to out-of-state students. They use out-of-state tuition as a way to make up for state budget cuts. They also don’t usually give out-of-state students any financial aid. There’s no reason to pay the cost of a private school and only receive the resources of a public university. If your student has an in-state option, that’s the public school they should attend.

Don’t Believe Private Scholarships Are Your Payment Solution

Great grades don’t automatically equal a great scholarship to pay for school. This is especially true since many private scholarships are $1,000 or less, and only last for one year. Think about how many scholarships your student would have to apply for to make a difference in school costs. And if the awards don’t come through, a student often ends up with loans instead.

Stop Believing College Rank Equals Better Salary

Remember that there are no guarantees regarding graduation and jobs, even at the top-ranked schools. Even if your student has a slightly higher salary due to the brand of the school, it won’t make up for all the extra debt and debt payments they will have as well. The total amount borrowed shouldn’t be more than the annual salary upon graduation – and top-ranked schools are much more expensive than that.

Parents Make a Difference

As a parent, you play a vital role in helping your student understand the impact of borrowing money and the fact that it will follow them for years – sometimes decades – after they graduate. Help them avoid a nightmare of debt by setting boundaries during the college search process, and ensuring they only look at schools within their financial resources.


Students can only borrow $28,000 over four years or $31,000 over five years. Beyond that, a private student or parent loan is required. High schools, colleges, and banks don’t do a good job educating kids about the impact of debt. You’re the only line of defense your student has. Stand strong!



This post is by Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road2College, and was originally published  here.


Road2College helps families understand the financial aid process and ways to pay for college, supporting families in becoming educated consumers of higher ed by providing information and data to make more informed decisions in the college purchase process.


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