The most dangerous words in college planning: “If you get in, we’ll make it work”
By Joe Messinger, CFP®
July 24, 2020
“If you get in, we’ll make it work.” These 8 words are by far the most dangerous words in college planning. We hear from parents who have told their children this all the time. Suddenly, they find themselves faced with staggering college costs that they had not anticipated, and they cannot afford to pay. Because of those words, parents shoulder enormous debt to honor a promise they never should have made.
Parents–we are going to be a little rough on you in this post. It is a tough pill to swallow. However, we understand how it happens. As a consumer of a college education, you just didn’t have the knowledge to understand completely what your promise would mean. You didn’t really know how much that promise would cost. When we went to college, things were different–the costs weren’t as high, the job market wasn’t as competitive.
College planning includes some tough choices.
Families need to understand how to make smart choices about how to pay for college. Those choices can be difficult. What do we recommend?
- Take advantage of all the free resources available to you (especially our Smart Money Moves for the College-Bound webinar). Use the internet as your resource library. Our blog post library is also a treasure trove of articles dating back to 2014. Use the search field to find pieces on your topic of interest.
- Be sure both you and your child understand the real of cost college, how scholarships work, how loans work, what you have saved, how your student can help, and how to find a college you can afford.
- Both of you need to be in agreement about how to pay for it, and this doesn’t mean that parents are just willing to take on a large debt themselves!
- Students need to do some “adulting.” They need to understand how personal finances work and what the future will look like (for both you and them) based on your choices.
- College is an investment. Evaluate the return on that investment. You need to consider what the net cost of attendance is, how much money you need to borrow (and what it will cost you), and what the earnings potential is. PayScale has a list of early career and mid-career average salaries by college. Note, that the number of STEM and other high paying degrees can affect the “average” salary at any school. Be sure to consider the degree you are pursuing. The College Scorecard can provide figures by college major if there were enough graduates from the program.
How we at Capstone Wealth Partners can help
Besides our free workshops and blog postings, we want to tell you about our College Aid Pro™ software. Our team developed College Aid Pro™ as a tool for financial planners to use to help their clients with apples-to-apples comparisons of over 2,400 colleges. We saw the need for this software existed, and no one was providing it. Now, it is the highest rated college planning software for advisors (T3 Advisor Survey 2019-2020).
Families fill in their specific information in an easy to use interface, and the software does the rest providing details about your Expected Family Contribution, projected need and merit based aid at specific colleges, as well as college admissions criteria, rankings, and financial data. Using the Advanced Search function you’ll be able to search and filter for colleges that fit your criteria like admissions likelihood, affordability, merit scholarships, and more.
To get started, get your FREE College Money Report™ today.
IN UNDER 5 MINUTES you can get a fully customized report that demystifies your students college financial aid outlook. Your College Money Report™ gives you answers to 3 critical things every family needs to know before entering the college funding maze.
- How much colleges think you can afford.
- If you will qualify for grants and/or scholarships.
- How much you will be expected to pay out of pocket.
But they really wanted to go to (fill in college name here).
Yeah, we get it. This decision isn’t just based on cold hard facts about the strength of a school’s program or the cost. This decision is also emotional. We have seen discussions get heated between parents and their children.
We can all think back to when we were making this decision about which college to attend, but today’s costs can sink future grads into a hole they (or you) will have trouble crawling out of. As the parent, you may have to take on the role of bad guy (to a certain extent) to make sure your student can approach the choice of college as an adult would–understanding what their choice means for the future of all involved. If you need Capstone to be the bad guy we are happy to do so if it leads to a better college outcome!
The key to making smart decisions and preventing any heated discussions is being proactive and not reactive when planning for the cost of education –both the parent and the child need fully understand what they are getting into. Not just for one year, but for all 4 years of education. Don’t get sucked into the “if you get in, we’ll make it work” trap. We have the tools to help your family avoid the heart aches and the head aches and make in informed college buying decision.