College Costs Expectations Gap

A recent survey by CentSai Adulting should serve as a bit of a wake-up call for parents of college-bound teens. The survey showed that while 76% of teens felt that a college education was worth the cost, the majority said they are only willing to incur up to $10,000 in debt to get a degree, with less than 1/4 saying they were willing to borrow $20,000.

The average debt for college graduates in recent years has been just under $30,000. While it’s true that not all students borrow for college, it’s also true that there is a big difference between $10,000 and $30,000, and we as parents have a responsibility to our kids to help them be realistic about what college costs, how it gets paid for, what alternatives exist to earn degrees at lower cost, and what impact student debt will have on their adult lives.

A good starting point– besides a conversation with your teen about what you’re willing and able to pay– is the website of your state’s flagship public university. Public schools tend to be pretty transparent about costs and financial aid, especially merit awards. Let your student explore the difference in costs between in-state public and the private schools they’re interested in. In addition, they can find out about merit awards for which they’re likely to be eligible at each school and use the school’s net price calculator. Next stop: the Federal student aid website to learn about loans and calculate likely debt upon graduation, based on the difference between what you can pay and what a school costs.

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