Paying for college is NOT easy these days, and yet…most parents want to help in some way. Here are a few suggestions for parents to prepare for college costs.
• Set a debt limit. Here the guideline is not to go into debt for more than 50% of what the graduate can make as a starting salary. If your son or daughter wants to teach, most national teacher starting salaries do not exceed $40,000, so college debt should not be more than $20,000.
• Invest conservatively. No less than two years before your son or daughter goes off to college, you should shift your investments so they are not high risk.
• Fill out financial aid forms correctly and early. Both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile forms are financial applications that must be filled out before the January deadlines. Do not let income tax filing delay your financial aid applications. Use end-of-year bank statements, dividend reports, and W-2 forms to provide information requested. Also be accurate. Sometimes it pays to have a professional do the forms for you so you do not miss out on important aid.
• Make it clear what you will and will not pay for. Sit your son or daughter down and make a list of what expenses beyond tuition and room and board that you can help with and what they will have to pay for. It is best they begin setting aside monies for dates, gas, etc. so you will not be hit with last-minute panic payments.