How Much Can You Borrow for College?

This is a question for the parents, not the students. For better or, often, for worse, parents can borrow the entire cost of college through parent PLUS loans. And for multiple children. If the lenders won’t cap what you can borrow, then it’s up to you to make good choices on your own.

Figures from the 2016 Trends in Student Aid report show that although the number of parents taking out PLUS loans was only 11% of the number of students taking out direct student loans, the average parent PLUS loan was, at $15,250, considerably more than twice the average direct student loan. Multiply $15,250 times four years and you’ve got a big loan balance for mom and dad.

Parents often fail to consider that, by the time their students reach college, they may have limited work years left. Parents who had children in their 30s will be in their 50s or 60s when those children graduate from college. Those not intending to work forever should be mindful of their intended retirement date when considering borrowing to pay for their students’ educations.

Paying off that $61,000 in PLUS loans over 10 years would require monthly payments of about $650. And that assumes that you only have one student for whom you’re borrowing. If you are unable to pay off student loans before retiring, you are borrowing too much and need to revisit your school choice.

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