Does Paying for Your Child’s College Tuition Mean Going into Debt?

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Does Paying for Your Child’s College Tuition Mean Going into Debt?

by | Oct 10, 2020

It’s not unusual for parents to help their children pay for living expenses, even after their child graduates from college.

The student loan crisis will only continue to get worse as college tuitions rise, and parents are increasingly helping their children pay tuition, even if that means getting into significant debt themselves. According to a recent report from Country Financial, more than 50 percent of parents are willing to take on upwards of $30,000 in debt to help their children pay for college; 10 percent of parents have already taken on debt to help with tuition and other costs.

But is this the right approach? While most parents are willing to help their children in any way they can, paying for a child’s college education is a luxury, especially with retirement on the horizon. Interestingly, this same report found that men are willing to take on more debt than women and are twice as likely to sacrifice retirement savings to give their child a better chance at success.

Trends in College Costs

Most people know that the cost of college in the United States continues to rise. Tuition for private four-year institutions doubled from 1987 to 2018, going from roughly $15,000 to $35,000. For public institutions, it tripled in this time period, going from about $3,200 in 1987 to nearly $10,000 by 2018. And that’s without considering room and board.

With this drastic cost increase, it’s no wonder that Americans are facing a $1.5 trillion student loan crisis in addition to the burden of debt incurred on parents and grandparents who are willing to help out.

Many parents begin saving for their child’s education long before the child enters high school or, in some cases, elementary school, but too often, this isn’t enough. According to the report from Country Financial, only 18 percent of parents were able to pay for most of their child’s college expenses. More than half report that they are only able to cover 60 percent or less of education costs. Most admit that these expenses are much more than they expected, with 30 percent having not been able to save anything ahead of time.

Reasonable Options

The County Financial report also discovered that parents are willing to make both rational and irrational decisions about helping their children pay for college. About 30 percent of parents reported that they were willing to cut back on vacation spending, but only 20 percent indicated that they were willing to work a part-time job. Perhaps surprisingly, about 25 percent of parents said that they were willing to pull from their own savings accounts and 20 percent would take out a loan.

Parents should make saving for college a part of their financial plan, much like saving for retirement. The earlier they can get started, the better.

But saving can be difficult when a lot of parents are paying off their own student loans. Some colleges are becoming prohibitively expensive, and parents and students may need to consider other options, like community colleges or attending a public college instead of a private institution.

For parents, it’s important to talk to children about the limit of the financial burdens they are willing to take on to help. These days, a lot of kids are coming back home to live after college to save money. Parents and students should consider whether or not parents taking on more debt will result in them having to move in with their children after retirement.


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