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How Much Money Should a Family Borrow for College?

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Duane Silberman
Waddell & Reed



How much money should a family borrow for college?

Provided By: Duane J. Silbernagel CFP®

There is no magic formula to determine how much you or your child should borrow to
pay for college. But there is such a thing as borrowing too much. How much is too much? Well, one guideline for students is to borrow no more than their expected first-year starting salary after college, which, in turn, depends on a student’s particular major and job prospects.

But this guideline is simply that — a guideline. Just as many homeowners got burned by taking out larger mortgages than they could afford (even though lenders may have told them they were qualified for that amount), students can get burned by borrowing amounts that may have seemed reasonable at first glance but now, in reality, are not.

Keep in mind that student loans will need to be paid back over a term of 10 years or longer. A lot can happen during that time. What if a student’s assumptions about future earnings don’t pan out? Will student loans still be manageable when other expenses like rent, utilities, and/or car payments come into play? What if a borrower steps out of the workforce for an extended period to care for children and isn’t earning an income? There are many variables, and every student’s situation is different. Of course, a loan deferment is available in certain situations, but postponing payments only kicks the can down the road.

To build in room for the unexpected, a smarter strategy may be for undergraduate students to borrow no more than the federal student loan limit, which is currently $27,000 for four years of college. Over a 10-year term with a 4.45% interest rate (the current 2017/2018 rate on federal student loans), this equals a $279 monthly payment. Borrow more by adding in co-signed private loans, and the monthly payment will jump: $40,000 in loans (at the same interest rate) equals a monthly payment of $414, while $60,000 in loans will result in a $620 monthly payment. Before borrowing, students should know exactly what their monthly payment will be.

As for families, there is no one-size-fits-all rule on how much to borrow. Many factors come into play including, but not limited to, the number of children in the family, total household income and assets, and current and projected retirement savings.

How can families trim college costs?

Trimming college costs up front can help families avoid excessive college borrowing and the burdensome student loan payments that come with it. Here are some ideas.

1. Pick a college with a lower net price. You can use a college’s net price calculator (available on every college’s website) to estimate what your net price (out-of-pocket cost) will be at individual colleges. A net price calculator does this by estimating how much grant aid a student is likely to receive based on a family’s financial and personal information. Colleges differ on their aid generosity, so after entering identical information in different calculators, you may find that College A’s net price is $35,000 per year while College B’s net price is $22,000. By establishing an ideal net price range, your child can target schools that hit your affordable zone.

2. Investigate in-state universities. Research in-state options and encourage your child to apply to at least one in-state school. In-state schools generally offer the lowest sticker price (though not necessarily the lowest net price) and may offer scholarships to state residents.

3. Research colleges that offer generous merit aid. All colleges are not created equal in terms of how much institutional aid they offer. Spend time researching colleges that offer generous merit aid to students whose academic profile your child matches.

4. Graduate early. Earn college credit in high school by taking AP/IB classes and then graduate a semester or two early. Or look at colleges that specifically offer three-year accelerated degree programs.

5. Seek out free room and board. There are two ways to do this: The first is to live at home (though transportation costs might eat into your savings), and the second way is to become a resident assistant (RA) on campus, a job that typically offers free room and board.

6. Work during college. Working during college and contributing modest amounts to tuition along the way — say $1,500 to $3,000 a year — can help students avoid another $6,000 to $12,000 in loans.

7. Combine traditional and online courses. Does the college offer online classes? If so, you may be able to earn some credits at a lower cost over the summer or during breaks.

I hope you found this beneficial and informational. For more information about me and my services, visit my website:
www.duane.wrfa.com

Thank you for your interest.

Duane Silbernagel is a Financial Advisor in Lincoln City, Oregon offering securities through Waddell & Reed, Inc., Member FINRA and SIPC. He can be reached at (541) 614-1322 or via email at DSilbernagel@wradvisors.com. 
This article is meant to be general in nature and should not be construed as investment or financial advice related to your personal situation. The article was written by an independent third party, Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. (Copyright 2017) and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. Waddell& Reed is not affiliated with www.newslincolncounty.com website and is not responsible for any other content posted to this website.  (11/17)

 

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