If you are the parent of a high school senior who plans to go to college next year, now is the time to determine how you will pay for that education. You might have been saving for college for years, but you will still want to decide whether your child will also need to apply for a student loan to help pay for tuition and other costs. Your credit score may be considered for your child’s student loan, so it’s important to make sure your credit report is accurate.
Financial educators at CredAbility speak regularly with students who have student loans. Unfortunately, even though counseling is now required for students, many receive counseling online and still don’t understand how it will affect their financial life after college. In fact, our financial counselors find that most students don’t understand how much college costs until the bills start rolling in.
As you begin to consider how to pay for college, here are some tips to help you make some important decisions:
- Understand how much college will cost. Many high school students dream of leaving home and going off to a new city or state only to find out that the full cost of an out-of-state education can be $30,000 a year or more. Once a school has accepted your child, schedule an appointment with the financial aid office to discuss the full cost of classes, housing, meals, and other expenses. Ask this simple question: How much is it going to cost each semester?
- Investigate all your options. Identify how much money you have to pay for college, calculate any shortfall, and determine other sources of funds. Such sources may include selling assets, such as cars, furniture, and other valuables. If your income and the sale of assets still do not cover the costs, consider applying for a student loan.
- Understand how a student loan works. Unfortunately, most people do not know how much money they will owe, and they may also not understand that the longer they stay in school, the more they will owe. During your meeting with your school’s financial aid office, ask the officer to discuss what type of loan you have and how repayment works.
- Know the difference between the types of student loans. Federal government loans are based on financial needs and have low, fixed interest rates. Those provided by lenders are for tuition and other educational purposes and are based on your creditworthiness. The loan amount, interest rate, and repayment terms will vary.
- Understand the rules covering repayment of student loans. Six months after a student graduates, he or she must begin repaying any student loans. The loans must be repaid on time and in full, Non-payment of a student loan could result in a lower credit score, late fees, the withholding of any income tax refund, and possible wage garnishment.
- Discuss the student loan and who will repay it. The student loan application process is a series of complex electronic forms, but the hardest part is actually paying back the loan. If your child has received approval for a student loan, sit down with him or her and discuss how the loan works. Your child needs to know how much will be owed, when payments will start, and how nonpayment could affect future opportunities.
Mechel Glass is the Director of Education for CredAbility. In this position, she is responsible for developing the curriculum and educational materials for online classes including webinars, podcasts, videos and listen-on-demand classes. She is responsible for managing the agency’s community outreach programs and staff, including financial education specialists in a 14-county area throughout metro Atlanta and north Georgia. She also manages the development and reporting of education partnerships online for the agency.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.