By Stefan Geller
on January 20, 2020
With college tuition costs soaring across the country and the national student debt crisis topping $1 trillion, figuring out how to pay for college without drowning yourself in debt can seem like a perplexing conundrum.
In order to get a grasp on what parents can do to better prepare themselves to shoulder the cost of college, the Herald spoke to some experts in Boston to shed some light on what options they have.
The first step all parents should take is to send in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to see how much aid they can receive from the government, according to Catherine Chiu, the director of guidance for the Boston Public Schools.
“We encourage all parents to apply for FAFSA, because even though a lot of families think they don’t qualify for aid, the majority of them do,” said Chiu. “That’s usually the first step.”
That message was reiterated by Christine Roque, the Program Director for uAspire, a Boston nonprofit dedicated to helping students find an affordable path to and through college.
“If you’re a parent of a student who is a senior right now, you should really be applying for financial aid to maximize what you are eligible for,” Roque said.
Options, options, options
While students can often get their sights set on a particular college or type of school, both Roque and Chiu said if they want to find something affordable, the best thing they can do is apply to a wide range of schools and make a decision after they’ve compared costs.
“If you’re willing to extend to a different part of the country you might get more financial aid and scholarships than a local school,” Chiu said. “You don’t know what the final costs are until after you apply and after you receive the financial aid letters and scholarships.”
Roque added that she encourages students to have financial safety schools in addition to their preferred college, which they can likely get into and afford.
“It doesn’t help if a student can get into college but can’t afford it,” Roque said. “We would encourage the families to consider other options, like community college for a year or two. We don’t encourage parents to push themselves to the absolute max.”
Whether it be living at home, working while in school or applying for a plethora of scholarships, Roque and Chiu recommend taking whatever cost-cutting avenue students and their parents are able to find.
“Even if it’s just a little bit, save money wherever you can, because that’s less money that you’ll have to owe or borrow,” Roque said.
Consult a financial advisor
When parents who pursue all possible resources still find themselves coming up short, Roque and Chiu recommend they consult a financial advisor who can tailor options to them specifically, which could include things like taking out a home equity loan, refinancing their house or borrowing from their retirement account.
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