Here’s Why Taking out Huge College Loans Isn’t Worth It

Pair of legs from the knees down. One ankle has a heavy chain with a ball attached.

Here’s Why Taking out Huge College Loans Isn’t Worth It

Published May 10, 2024

Pair of legs from the knees down. One ankle has a heavy chain with a ball attached.

Parents, it’s always better to choose the best school you can afford and not take on any significant amount of debt. Even if you can afford nothing, choosing among the best options that come close enough is the most strategic approach you can take to paying for college. 

The colleges won’t tell you that.

The loan companies won’t tell you that.

And your kids probably won’t tell you that (they don’t know what they don’t know).

Of course, for many people to earn a college degree, they have no choice but to take the maximum amount of student loans offered while the parents take on some Parent Plus Loans. College is expensive, and not everyone has enough money for it. But choosing wisely among the lower net price options versus opting for even awesome choices that will have you in major debt can save you tens of thousands of dollars per year. 

Great Advice For Next Year’s Seniors

Ideally, all students should only apply to colleges where the Net Price Calculator (NPC) shows something reasonable, or those that offer a chance for a competitive scholarship that the NPC doesn’t account for. Right from the start, we should be weeding out schools that will have anyone in major debt, especially if there isn’t a chance of any big scholarships that would drastically lower the amount.

Instead, look for the best schools you can afford or almost afford.

By “best” I mean the curriculum, vibe, surrounding area, internship opportunities, alumni network, and career services. If you can’t afford any of those schools, then choose the best among those with net prices close enough to what you can afford. But if none of your options come anywhere remotely close to anything you can afford — you’re looking at schools you can’t afford, and you and your child will pay dearly if you proceed.

Before you sign up for loans in amounts that are darn close to your annual take-home pay — consider revising your college list and searching for schools that will cost you less. This could mean taking a gap year to work, save, and regroup,  or reducing the number of college years by participating in dual enrollment or passing the Advanced Placement and CLEP exams.

A Difficult Conversation Today Can Save You Thousands Tomorrow

Don’t be so afraid of saying “no” today that you exchange it for even bigger conflict, resentment, and strife when the bill comes due. Don’t jeopardize one of the most important relationships in your life by inviting great, big, massive debt into the relationship.

On a personal note, we chose a college that will cost near the top of what we can afford. Even the monthly payment plan option will leave us just a few hundred bucks a month after all our expenses are paid. But we won’t have debt, and that’s the beauty of choosing among options you can afford or almost afford — margin.

Even when you can barely afford the choice, with enough margin, it’s still a viable choice.

It isn’t easy to recognize what’s affordable versus what’s not when the line of affordability is blurred by the ease and availability of accepting student loans. Sometimes debt is unavoidable, and that’s simply a reality for many people. That would be my family if our kids didn’t have high grades, test scores, and class rank and they weren’t flexible about where to enroll. I believe there should be ZERO shame or stigma about getting an education and accepting a manageable amount of debt to make it happen.

But massive debt is avoidable. It’s just not the same thing as manageable debt. One provides opportunities, the other takes opportunities away. That’s a big difference.

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Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

👉 Looking for expert help on the road to college? See our Preferred Partner List!

Other Articles You Might Like:

How My Average Student Got a Full Ride to College

Dear Roadie, Should I Tell My Daughter Not to Bother Applying to Unaffordable Dream Schools?

Dear Roadie, My Son Insists on Borrowing $200K for a School We Can’t Afford. Did I Fail Him as a Parent?

JOIN ONE OF OUR FACEBOOK GROUPS & CONNECT WITH OTHER PARENTS: 

PAYING FOR COLLEGE 101

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