A few months ago, I got a raise of sorts. My fourth child graduated from college and got a job. I have just one child left on my payroll! So I got a raise, and he got a gift — a college degree debt-free.
There are many things that go into the training up of a child, and one of them is education. Many parents are putting that education at risk because they aren’t planning for it. When you hold a little one in your arms, college seems so distant. But it is not. And when there are 2, 3 or 4 children to educate, it is amazing how much it can cost and how quickly 18 years fly by. We were shocked at the dent it made in our budget when we ended up with three of our five kids in school at the same time.
There are many things that go into the training up of a child, and one of them is education.
Two things saved our family from having to borrow money for college — Florida Prepaid College Plans, and scholarships. Watching our kids graduate, get jobs, and plan their own budgets to pay for cars, apartments, clothes, and food was amusing for Mark and me (they just had no idea how much everything costs), but thankfully it was doable for them. They managed because they had the advantage of graduating without debt.
Seventy-one percent of students graduated in 2016 with student loan debt of $25,000 to $30,000. The average monthly payment was $350. For graduate students, the loan debt was greater, ranging from $40,000 to $140,000. And while $350 does not sound like a lot, to a graduate trying to build a life after college (wardrobe, furniture, car, rent, insurance, electricity, water, internet, cable and cell service, maybe a gym membership, and hopefully travel to visit their parents at Christmas)–it’s a lot.
What you can do:
1. Analyze Your Resources Now
Determine what you are able to do to provide education for each of your children. A great tool to help with your analysis is the college cost calculator at the bottom of this page.
2. Research Available Options
Explore plans available in your state to help you accomplish your educational goals. We took advantage of the Florida Prepaid Plan. The states that have prepaid savings plans are Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
3. Familiarize Yourself with State Scholarships
Knowing the requirements your child will need to meet long before they enter high school will ensure that they don’t fall behind and can benefit. This state listing will get you started.
When our oldest went to the University of Florida, we had Florida Prepaid and she qualified for Florida Bright Futures. The school would apply her Bright Futures Scholarship first, then Florida Prepaid would kick in. The net resulted in a $781 surplus. We received a check back for that amount and applied it to her housing. It was great. When our second child chose to go out of state, we still benefited from Florida Prepaid! We applied what we had saved in the Prepaid Plan to her housing and other expenses.
The bottom line: don’t delay. I know that open enrollment has begun for Florida Prepaid and that monthly payments for a 4-year college degree are only about $130 a month for a newborn.
How are you preparing for your child’s education?