For Parents: Navigating Over-Budget College Options

Making a decision about college can be challenging for everyone involved. Especially navigating over-budget college options. Students may stress about making a decision that has the potential to influence the rest of their lives. But parents may also feel the stress of their child’s decision. 

It can be challenging to figure out how to handle your child’s desire to go to an expensive college. Here are some beneficial steps you can take before, during, and after making a big financial decision about college. 

Parent taking child to college.

BEFORE: Discuss and Plan

Before making a decision about college, you should make a plan. Everyone involved in the college decision making process should sit down and talk through options together. The discussion should allow all parties to give their input to the conversation. This helps everyone to prepare for not only the big decision itself, but also for what comes after. 

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Treat this decision as a partnership

  • Your kid is entering into the adult world, and with that comes making difficult decisions. That includes tough decisions surrounding finances. Offer your kid a seat at the table and talk with them about their choices and the financial implications of those decisions. 

Talk to your kid about their options

  • Even if your kid is wanting (emphasis on the wanting) to go to a college that is ten thousand dollars more than other colleges on the list, don’t throw all the other options out yet. 
  • Make a pro/con list for each of their top college options and see where the financial aspect lands on each list. Doing this can show your child that the negative of that financial burden outweighs the positives of that institution. Or second, it might help you as a parent realize that extra financing is worth the longer list of positives for the school. 

Set expectations 

  • When you sacrifice in one area of life, you might have to sacrifice something else as well. For example, deciding on a more expensive school tuition might mean a cheaper living situation or no big spring break trip or getting an extra job. Setting expectations early can help prevent disappointment later on when something else big comes up. 

Create a college savings plan 

  • It is never too early to start planning and saving for college, especially if you know it is going to be more expensive than you originally thought. The College Raptor College Savings Plan can help families plan ahead for college expenses. Creating a savings plan can make achieving college funding goals easier. 

DURING: Budget and Apply

Making a big financial decision is not just a one-time thing. Within a big decision is usually a lot of smaller decisions as well. You won’t just decide which college your child attends, write a big check, and never think about money again. For most people, even after the decision is made you will need to take steps to lighten the financial load. Kids will especially need help when it comes to figuring out how to pay for college if you’re limited in your ability to help. Budgeting and planning help in navigating over-budget college options.

Set up a budget with your child

  • Once you have made the decision, it might be wise to set a budget with your child. Budgeting is a great skill that many adults use, so why not introduce it to your child at an early age to set up good habits for the future. 
  • Tuition will be the biggest expense, but there will be other big expenses too. For example, room and board, books, food, and gas are a few more expensive items to consider. 

Apply for loans, grants, or financial aid

  • Student loans, scholarship grants, and financial aid are all great options that can help with college funding. Remember that all your finances don’t have to come from one place. Apply for as many financial opportunities as you can and see which ones are the best fit for your child. This can be done before and during their time at college. 
  • College Raptor can help you find scholarships and find student loans if you and your child are still looking for these things. Scholarships and loans are great ways to offset the upfront cost of college and can range from small to large amounts. The challenge with scholarships is that they are sometimes more difficult to find and receive. And the challenge with loans is that they will have to be paid back with interest down the road. Let us help you make finding scholarships a little bit easier and help you find the best rates on student loans.

AFTER: Review and Reassess

After the decision has been made and the money has been paid, you can always review your plan and reevaluate. If the financial plan that you had in place isn’t working anymore for you and your family, you can make some adjustments. 

Transfer to a cheaper college 

    • Another way to reassess is to return to the original list of colleges and help your child choose a cheaper option. If a year or two at a more expensive college isn’t proving to be worth the extra money, consider a more affordable institution. 

Refinance your student loans

    • One common change people often make after college is refinancing any student loans they may have. This way, you and your child can hopefully find a loan with a better interest rate. 

Everything about college is a big step, including the finances. Navigating over-budget college options can be tough. Afterall, the financial element of college can sometimes be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a college. Figuring out what to do when you can’t afford college can feel paralyzing. The college you or your child are interested in may easily cost ten thousand more than the next college on the list. But don’t let that stop you from slowing down and thinking through the options. There are plenty of things you can do at any point of your child’s college journey that can help them make informed decisions for their college experience and future.

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