How did you pay for college? Especially if you didn't have a lot of money…

posted 2 years ago in Parenting
Post # 121
1088 posts
Bumble bee

So many thoughts on this because I was once kind of in your daughters shoes. I wanted to go to an expensive liberal arts school, and got in but they didn’t give me enough financial aid to make it possible.  My parents had saved some for college so they sat me down and said they could pay for the 1st 2 years of state school or the 1st semester at the liberal arts college, but that I would have to take out loans for the rest. I decided that going to my dream school was not worth the $100k in loans I would have graduated with and went on to have a great college “career” at Public U which set me up well for success in the workplace.  


I still graduated with $25k in loans which I just recently paid off in my late 30’s.  Having a $1000/mo loan payment vs a $220/mo one would have greatly impacted my entire adult life so far. I never would have been able to move to NYC after college and I still landed a job there without the prestigious private school degree. 


Some thoughts:

1. LOANS – a good rule of thumb is to not take out more than your expected first year salary.  Your daughter should research what her career interests pay new graduates and not borrow more than the lowest paying job. So if she’s interested in politics for example, a junior political aide in the US House or Senate makes around $30k – and needs to live in the pricey DC area. 


2. LOANS FOR PARENTS- if you do not have your own retirement funded, you do not borrow anything for her in your own name. Do not co-sign.  Do not be responsible.  It sucks because I know you want to give your baby what she dreams of but you also don’t want to pass on the burden to her of supporting you in your old age.


3. SCHOLARSHIPS / FINANCIAL AID – do complete the FAFSA form.  If you make less than $60k per year, many Ivy League and similar schools are tuition free. You still have to come up with travel and living expenses unless a scholarship covers those.  Between $60-160k, you are required to pay a % of your income towards tuition. 60% of Harvard students pay $12k a year in tuition vs the sticker price which is near $50k. Check with the schools she’s interested in to see what need based aid they offer and if any of it is income based. Then you have a clear idea of what you’ll need to cover between work, loans, and other scholarships. 


Did she take the PSAT junior year? If she scored high enough on that , she could be entered into the National Merit program. Many universities waive tuition for National Merit Finalists as long as they turn in all the paperwork on time. 


Also, she CAN negotiate with colleges. Don’t be afraid to ask for more once she gets her package. The worst they can say is “no” – or they might tip her off to another scholarship or endowment she qualifies for. If they really want her – and it’s a good sign that colleges are contacting her to apply- they can bend sometimes. 


Good luck!!

Post # 122
84 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: December 2018

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desertgypsy :  I haven’t read all the responses yet, but here is my story:

I live in Florida, who has the Florida Prepaid program – allowing parents to put a little money into it every month. We also have (or had at the time) the Bright Futures program which gives money based upon academic standing and volunteer hours – if you go to an in-state school. I qualified for Bright Futures my first two years, but you have to keep your grades up to keep it (and my program was hard). After that, I took out student loans. I have close to $50k in loans to pay back after completing my Master’s program. 

I have been able to bring my monthly loan payment down by consolidating and switching them to FedLoan. I am in the “pay as you earn” repayment plan and also work in government, so I am also in their loan forgiveness program. 

My advice would be for her to go online and look for scholarships and grants. Check to see if your state has anything like the Bright Futures program. Also reach out to her schools of interest about any financial aid options. She can also into work study, where she can have an on-campus job to help offset any costs. Lastly, if loans are necessary, know that there are ways to get the monthly payments down (mine went from ~$500/mo down to ~$125/mo) and ways to forgive after 10yrs. It will definitely cost more to go to an out of state school, but it is possible.

Post # 123
1071 posts
Bumble bee

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desertgypsy :  find an instate school where she can get in state tuition. Also, look into off campus housing options where rent is cheaper. Where I went to school, they charged you 30% more to live on campus. 

Post # 124
579 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2015

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desertgypsy :  I went to a small liberal arts school that cost over $25K per year. My parents were able to contribute a small amount (about $300 per month). The rest was paid with scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. I made sure I graduated in four years and I had about $40K in loans to pay off. I was able to get a job fairly quickly after graduating and the payments were manageable (especially after I consolidated them years later). It can be done! I did sacrifice a lot- I’ve been working since I was 15- but it was worth it.

Also, if she’s interested at all in becoming a teacher, some loans are forgiven if you work at a low-income school. 

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