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Saying No to School Loan Debt: A Quick Guide for Parents

When your kid was little, it was pretty easy to say no.

No, you’re not going to jump in the mud in your new shoes.
No, it’s not time for a cookie. It’s time for kale.
No, you cannot smear yourself with butter before school.

When you said no back then it was to keep them safe, healthy, and socially responsible. As they’ve gotten older, it’s harder to say no because they ask for less ridiculous things. You’ve set curfews, insisted they send text messages, and even loaned them your car. You see them growing into an adult right before your eyes. So saying no feels different.

But, here’s the truth-- saying no to some things when it comes to your child’s college journey will make life a lot easier. You’ve already got car loans, a mortgage or monthly rent payments, credit card debt, and probably even your own student loan payments to contend with. So maybe taking on more debt to help your kid pay for school isn’t an option. We’ve collected a solid list of things to say no to in order to help you stayed financially balanced and (mostly) debt free.

Say No to out-of-state college

This one might crush a few dreams initially, but it doesn’t have to be long-term. Instead of applying to expensive schools, work with your child on creating a plan that includes attending community college for a few years and then transferring later on. Or, check into the different cost-saving programs offered by your state schools. For example, in Pennsylvanian, students can take advantage of the 2+2 Plan with Penn State. They attend two years at any satellite campus of their choosing (potentially allowing them to live at home and save money) and then transfer with no credits loss to another school for two years. At the end, they graduate with a Penn State degree.

Say No to long-term payment plans

Loan repayments are scheduled over many years. This means you rack up a ton of interest and go deeper in debt. Check out tuition payment plans, instead. These let you spread payments throughout a semester or even a full academic year. If you can balance tuition payments with your own monthly scheduled payment, you’ll help your kid pay off college each year. To see if your child’s school offers tuition payment, check with the student accounting office. They may direct you to the financial aid office or the college bursar. But be sure to check with all offices that might handle student finances before assuming that these plans don't exist.

Say No to your financial aid offer

Life situations can change rapidly between when your child completes the FAFSA and gets awarded aid. You might lose a job or have to change your budget to take care of an unexpected expenses and the money you thought you had for college gets funneled elsewhere. So, when your child gets the offer, it may no longer reflect what types of contributions you can make. But don’t worry; you’re not stuck with the offer. There’s an appeals process. You can write a financial aid appeal letter to explain changes in your family’s financial situation. The letter will go to a specific person in the school’s financial aid office. Be sure to research who that should be. During your research, make sure to find out if they require anything special for the appeals process like forms or evidence documents. Check out a sample financial aid appeal letter and get writing.

Say No to meal plans

Meal plans are expensive, especially if you’re already shelling out a lot for a dorm room. A College Board survey estimated most meals on meal plans to cost between $7 and $11. That’s more than you should be willing to pay, especially if you’re trying to keep your family budget on track. Take these last few months that your kid is living at home and teach them how to cook on a hot plate. Send them to school with a few bowls and plates, a small frying pan, a sauce pan, a mini fridge, a microwave, and an electric kettle and they should be all set. Easy dorm room cooking recipes are all over the internet and with grocery delivery services, your kid can get ingredients delivered if they don’t have a car at school.

Say No to your child taking a back seat

Ultimately, college is your child’s responsibility. Of course you want to help because you’re a loving parent. But in the end, it’s not up to you to come up with the money to pay for school. It’s your child’s education and that ownership needs to start now. One way for them to take charge is to start applying for grants and scholarships– lots of them. Sit down with your child and have them make a list of 25 scholarships and grants they qualify for. Then, look at the requirements together. Have your child write a few sample essays that can be customized for each application. Get those first 25 done and then get them started on a second round.

Saying no probably isn’t your favorite thing to do as a parent, but, in these cases, it can save a lot of money during your child’s college experience.

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