Parent College Coach Tip #91: Wishful Thinking Won’t Pay Tuition Bills

tuition billsYour child is accepted to an expensive private college that you can’t possibly afford with high tuition bills. How do you handle this difficult conversation? Do you cave and send him anyway knowing you will accumulate mounds of debt?

The College Board and Art & Science Group, LLC published a study about college affordability and how it influences college choices. Upon releasing their findings, the study concluded:

Despite acknowledging some to great concern about their own or their families’ ability to pay for college, a majority of college-bound seniors surveyed by Student Poll late last spring indicated that they were still considering schools they viewed as “too expensive” because they offered such characteristics as strong academics, a prestigious reputation, and other factors students valued and believed were worth the higher cost. Simply put, students were still willing to stretch financially to attend institutions where they perceived the value of the education to be worth the higher cost.

As a parent, this study is troubling.

It seems that families are willing to pay whatever cost necessary to obtain a college education for their children based on the perceived notion that the reputation of the college was worth the cost. This basically translates into this simple: expensive college = good education and/or good job. This conclusion is not entirely based on fact, but public perception.

This study underscores the fact that parents and students are oblivious to the realities of financing a college education. Adopting the “bury my head in the sand” approach will only result in college sticker shock once the bills begin to arrive; not to mention, inability to repay the debt after graduation. It’s up to every parent to be financially responsible and have the “money talk” with their kids BEFORE applying and definitely AFTER acceptance letters arrive. If the aid isn’t there and the price is too high, cross that college off the list. If a college doesn’t provide you with some form of financial incentive, the acceptance is merely a way to fill their quota. Odds are they are fairly convinced you will decline the invitation. Instead, look at the colleges who offer good financial aid packages. These schools are willing to provide assistance because they value your son or daughter and their contribution to their student body. That’s the college you want to send them to!

It’s your responsibility as a parent to explain the realities of paying for the education. If the colleges aren’t affordable, there are other options. Consider community college for a few years. Find a college close to home and save that room and board cost. Choose a college with a lower price tag vs. one that’s priced above your ability to pay. Use those calculators (college cost and loan repayment) to determine your ability to pay and make an informed decision.
And parents—practice this simple word: NO.

You can read the complete study findings here: Student Poll: Many College-Bound Students Report Difficulty Affording a College Education

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