Remember your kids as little ones, riding on their tricycles and grabbing fistfuls of Cheerios? Now they are soon off to college, and you might be feeling bittersweet. Your children can finally do their own laundry (hallelujah) and you get some much needed quiet time around the house.
Sending kids to college is not just a transition for your children, it’s also a big step in parenthood for you. You may be sending your first child to college, but what if you have another child headed off to educational pursuits not too far behind?
If you have two kids going to college at the same time, the double whammy can hurt right in the wallet. As you navigate college dorms, tuition, and how to make sure your kids know where all of their classes are, you might have a few questions on how to support them over the next four years. We’ve compiled a few tips that could help guide you through sending your kids to college.
Financing Your Kids’ Education the Debt-Free Way
If you are putting multiple kids through college, then you know how much tuition and other costs can beat down your budget. You might want to start by talking with your spouse or someone you trust about finding the cash to finance your children’s education.
There are several ways to get creative with saving for your child’s college tuition that might help you avoid going into massive debt.
Scholarships can also play a role in financing your children’s education. They can be especially helpful since you won’t need to pay them back after your child graduates, and they can be used to directly fund tuition. Scholarship hunting can be a daunting task though.
Your mini-mes are most likely overwhelmed with selecting their university, studying for college entrance exams, and finishing out their high school senior year.
You could band together on scholarship applications by helping them find scholarships they are eligible for and compile a list. Ultimately, it’s up to your child to make the effort to complete the requirements. Encouragement is key here!
A Borrower’s Way to Pay
If paying for tuition out-of-pocket is out of reach, it’s recommended to first apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) . You may be faced with several options here, including Federal Direct Loans, which can be either subsidized or unsubsidized, PLUS Loans work-study, or grants.
Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans are offered to students who are enrolled at least half-time in school. Each of your kids will need to fill out their own FAFSA—parents cannot take out these types of loans on behalf of their children. That’s where the Parent PLUS, or Direct PLUS, loan comes into play.
The Direct PLUS Loan allows parents of undergraduate students to take out a loan to pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. It’s helpful to have a strong credit history, as anything adversely affecting your credit could also affect your eligibility to receive a Direct PLUS Loan.
Are You Cashing In on Ramen and Mac ‘n’ Cheese?
Your kids might not be accustomed to fending for themselves when it comes to food. If you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits while in college, you could make clear what you will or will not be paying for in groceries.
If you want to help out your kiddos, you could send them food items to get them through the week. You might want to check with the college residence hall coordinator first about any rules on using a mini fridge. Or you could stick with items that can be stored in a plastic bin or inside a closet to make things easy.
Let Your Kids Spread Their Financial Wings
Tuition continues to rise, and so does the cost of living. Tuition and fees for full-time, in-state students attending four-year public colleges and universities saw a 2.6% increase between the 2018-19 academic year and 2019-20.
How will your children support themselves in school? There are several ways, and it might be advantageous to have a conversation with your kids early on about how they can take care of themselves financially.
Some universities offer work-study programs, which give student workers the opportunity to work a job that fits within their class schedule. Students would need to fill out the FAFSA to determine eligibility for federal work-study.
If your child qualifies, it will be noted in their financial aid award. If your child is awarded work-study, they will still be responsible for securing a job that fits within the program.
Your kids could also explore part-time opportunities off-campus, such as waiting tables or picking up a gig as a nanny.
Another alternative, if you have the ability, is to support your children financially. You could determine an appropriate amount to keep your child on the right path or consider offering cash incentives for good grades. If you have the funds to help throughout the year, this could help offset student loan debt.
You Come First
Sending your kids to college can be a priority, but you come first. You might want to prioritize your money goals first, such as retirement. You don’t want to be caught dumping all of your potential retirement savings into tuition if you are short on your retirement goals.
You could make a plan and ask yourself how much you want to contribute each month to retirement, regardless of other pressing expenses. Tuition can be covered in a variety of ways, but borrowing from your retirement stash or neglecting it could have an impact on your retirement goals.
They’re Off to College, but They Still Need You
Just because you successfully guided your offspring to college doesn’t mean that they don’t need you. You can probably expect to answer text messages (because we all know actual phone calls are a thing of the past with Gen Z’s) on how to make a pot of coffee or what that genie lamp light means on the dashboard of their car (hint: check your engine oil!). Remember, they may still lean on you for support as they transition into adulthood.
Then There’s the Whole Paying It Back Thing
Four years are going to fly by. When your kids are well on their way to their post-grad careers, you could check out how refinancing their student loans might help. Refinancing student loans with SoFi can create one monthly payment.
Your child could even reduce their interest rate when they refinance, depending on the terms of their existing financing. If they have federal loans, know that refinancing means they’ll no longer qualify for federal protections or repayment programs.
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Student Loan Refinancing
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
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Student Loan Refinancing