It’s no secret that college is expensive, and that excessive student loans are creating a lot of hardship for many people in the United States. I see a big trend towards blaming the colleges and the loan companies for this situation, but I see it differently. I’ve been mulling over the post for a couple of months, and this morning I answered a Facebook question about student loan debt with a comment that basically sums up the blog post I’ve been trying to write. So here it is:
“As a parent with three in college and a graduating high school senior, I have a lot of thoughts about this. While I find the cost of college appalling, and the student loan situation is out of control, I still put the ultimate responsibility on the parents.
No undergraduate can take out bjillions of dollars in student loans without at least a co-sign from a parent. The typical college student has an undergraduate limit of $31,000 in federal loans. Independent students, or those with parents who do not qualify for parental loans, have an undergraduate maximum of $57,500 in federal loans. These enormous loan balances are coming from parents taking out or co-signing private loans.
As a parent, I have the responsibility to explain, in clear language, how much we can afford to pay for college, and to guide my child toward a college that fits our budget, understanding that the net price may be nowhere near the list price, and considering all merit and need-based aid for which the child may qualify.
I see a ton of parents who:
- don’t talk to their kids about how much their family can/will contribute to college
- don’t consider the cost of colleges when college shopping
- perpetuate the idea of a “dream school” without regard to cost
- don’t take the time to learn about the financial aid process until the summer after the kids graduate from college, and
- agree to let their kids take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans each year, without regard to their ability to repay them
In my opinion, this is just abdicating your parental responsibility and setting your child up for a tough road out of college (whether they graduate or not.)
My kids don’t like it when I say, “We’re not even going to go look there, they don’t give merit aid,” but I don’t care. I suspect they’ll thank me in 10 years, and even if they don’t, I’ll still know that I did the right thing for them.
Parents, please do your jobs and guide your kids to smart decisions about paying for college. I understand that the costs is overwhelming, and it feels easier to blame the college, but resist the urge to throw up your hands and give in to excessive loans. You’ll be making your child’s life, and your life, much easier.