Talking to Your Kids About an Affordable College

Affordable College

The sky is the limit, you can go anywhere and do anything!

 

Well, at least that’s what the marketing says. The truth is, while effort can get you far, there are choices and tradeoffs to be made. Especially when it comes to choosing a college.

 

With students, it’s important to set expectations and make sure they understand what’s an affordable college and what’s not. They also need adult help understanding the impact of debt on their future.

 

We asked the parents in our Paying for College 101 Facebook group when they had “the money talk” with their kids, and what advice they’d give.

 

Here are some tips they shared and other helpful advice so you can help your students choose an affordable college!

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Start the Discussion Early

Many parents in our Facebook group started talking to their children about affordable colleges during elementary and middle school. This was often in conjunction with other lessons on money, saving, and thrift.

 

One parent said, “We explained it this way: We can afford things from the mall but we always check resale shops and garage sales first and then if we still need a new item, we tend to actually purchase from a place like Walmart/Target. We told her that we will do the same with college.”

 

Giving your kids a solid financial education – in every area – will help make the discussion about an affordable college much easier. In fact, your child may take it as a given that they have to be careful with spending on school!

 

Don’t think it’s a “one and done” discussion, either – one parent pointed out, “It’s like sex ed—it’s not one talk. It’s many talks over many years with increasing complexity.”

 

 

Ignore Snarky Comments About State Schools

When you do have the discussion about affordable college programs with your kids, they may well choose to stay close to home, start at a community college, or go to a state school instead of a “name brand” institution.

 

Unfortunately, some teachers and other parents consider college a status symbol and may make negative comments about your child choosing an affordable college.

 

A parent in our group shared, “{My son} currently finished his first year at a state university in their honors college and will come out of that school debt free. He put up with lots of snarky comments from other high school classmates and their parents as well as some teachers who thought the school was beneath him during the college search process.”

“He’s actually majoring in what he wants to major in and has repeatedly told us how much he liked his classes and professors. I think he was shocked that he did like them so much after hearing negative comments from people. I wish people would keep their negative comments to themselves. It would have made the whole process much easier.”

 

 

Be Honest And Avoid the “Freshman Trap”

Many parents share with their students how much is currently saved for college and what debt can be expected. If you plan to cosign, make sure your child knows the upper limit that you are willing to sign for.

 

Also, make sure your student understands how much debt can impact their future, including their ability to take a job they may enjoy but doesn’t start off paying a lot. If you have examples from yourself or other family members, you can use them. Of course, don’t be too unkind!

 

Most of all, don’t avoid the discussion. Students will create their own ideas, hopes, and dreams, many of them based on input from teachers and peers. You don’t want to be the one who ruins the illusion because you didn’t set expectations up front!

 

One parent sadly shared, “I have adult friends who are still angry at their parents. Justly or not. I think had they known before senior year, it’d have been different and healthier for the relationships. Sadly some parents never participate in any way and a kid is left scrambling unprepared. Y’all are great to discuss it!”

 

Finally, don’t fall for the “freshman trap.” Some schools will offer generous one-year aid that either isn’t renewable or is very difficult to maintain. Make sure you are looking at the full four-year financial picture!

 

 

Help Them Stay Frugal at an Affordable College

Once an affordable college is chosen, there’s one more step – it’s vital to stay on track with the budget during school.

 

Once at college, without a parent there to be a voice of wisdom, some students begin spending freely on everything from pizza and beer to spring break vacations. Be sure your student understands that they have a budget on campus, not just for tuition and fees.

 

Would you like help finding an affordable school? We’re here for you. If you’re still reviewing schools, find out which ones are best for your family with our toolkit today!

 

 

 

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