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Help! My Kid Wants to Go to an Expensive College

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Q. I’m having a disagreement with my son about college. He got into the three he liked best with scholarships — we don’t think we will qualify for federal aid but we will apply anyway. The one he likes best will cost about $9,000 more per year than the other two, and that’s money we haven’t saved yet. But he has his heart set. How do we handle this?
— Mom

A. This isn’t an easy situation, and when you don’t have enough money to pay for college, there could be many touchy conversations ahead for you and your son.

You’ll need to have a conversation with your son as an adult, said Alison Williams, a certified financial planner with Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland, N.J.

Williams said the discussion points should include why he likes the more expensive school. Is it because there’s a program for his major that surpasses the others? Are his friends going there? Is the school located somewhere he hopes to live in the future? Does he have concerns about finding a job and they have a job placement program?

She said being conscious of “the why” is a good jumping off point.

If the more expensive school is still in the lead, it may be time to discuss student loans, Williams said.

“Be sure that he understands his decision to attend the more expensive school will entail his taking on some debt,” Williams said.

If you’re not well-versed in student loans, it would be a good idea to go with your son to meet with a loan representative at a bank to discuss how they work, current interest rates and more.

Your son also needs to realize that paying for college isn’t exactly a parental responsibility, however much you may want to pay for his education. You’re not a money tree. You have other financial goals, and they could be derailed if you take on too much college debt on your own.

[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that student loans and how well you pay them off impacts your credit score. You can track your credit-building progress by getting two free credit scores each month on Credit.com.]

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  • Evanrb1

    That’s a terrible answer. What does the school cost? Is the school in state or out of state – public or private? How much do mom and dad make – have made over the years? What has mom promised her son regarding college? There is no need to meet with a bank official regarding loans until later in the process, if at all. Each college will process financial aid comprised of grants, work/study, and student loans which all go through the school.

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