Would you ever encourage an 18-year-old to make a decision on their own that involves spending six figures of their money (or yours) on something? If not, then why do we allow our children to make the decision on where they attend college?
In our lifetime, college has come to be synonymous with success in life. This can lead some parents to do just about anything to get their kids into the “right” school — just ask Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman or any of the 50 parents charged in the recent college admissions scandal.
And, kids, being kids, want to attend the status school of the moment, or the school with the specialized program in a niche subject that just can’t be acquired anywhere else.
We have seen parents sacrifice their own retirement goals in order to let their children attend the college of their choice, regardless of the value of the education or field of study.
We have seen children who didn’t know any better, sacrifice their future by paying for that top-notch school to get a degree in a field that doesn’t pay half of one year of tuition.
What’s more, did you know more than 50 percent of college freshman do not graduate in four years?
No matter which way you shake it, college costs a lot of money, and no one wants to be drowning in debt while they’re either trying to retire or launch their career.
In turn, parents and children need to make an educated decision as to where they attend college with an understanding of the consequences of their choice, both positive and negative.
Make Them Work For It
When it comes time for your high-schooler to start the college application process, encourage them to apply to at least 20 different colleges and universities. You should compare the packages offered by the schools and consider the pros and cons of the requirements for any scholarships offered.
Also, advise your child to spend the summer between junior and senior year of high school applying for hundreds of grant and scholarship opportunities. Any that are awarded is money in your pocket — and it can add up quick.
Having your child perform the legwork in this process sets an example of the type of hard work that comes after graduation and during a career. And, if your child simply doesn’t want to put in the work, you can assume it wasn’t as important a decision to them as they made it out to be.
The decision of where your child ultimately attends college should consider a few factors: their means to pay for it; their chosen field of study; their ability to succeed academically in the field of study; and jobs available upon graduation in that field.
To start, you and your child should review their expected college major and create a list of possible jobs that might result from graduating with a degree in that major. Then, look at salary data and job prospects for these at O*NET. You might be surprised at what you find out.
Demonstrate The Impact of Debt
Avoid large student loans at all costs, or you could be looking at a negative impact on your child’s — or your — life for decades. It’s also important to note that student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
If loans are unavoidable, illustrate the effect that the loan will have on your child’s post-graduation income. FinAid.org has an online tool that can show your child their monthly student loan payment upon graduation based on the amount of loans they would have to take to attend a specific school. For an 18-year-old, seeing numbers in the tens and hundreds of thousands can be a huge wake-up call.
You can also include their student loan payment in a prospective post-graduation budget. Many people with student loans do not realize the financial impact that the monthly payment will have.
Consider Other Options
College isn’t for everyone, and there’s no reason to push your child to go if they have no interest or would do better with a career working in a trade. There are many high paying trade careers that do not require a college degree.
Both parents and children will feel a lot better making an educated decision with their child about their child’s education. If you need professional help making a big decision such as this, or just simply talking to your child about making smart financial decisions seek out a certified financial planner.