There are a lot of scary things about growing older and entering the “real world,” and no, I’m not talking about MTV. As a high school student looking forward to the college experience, few words said by your parents are scarier than “we can’t pay for college.”
In U.S. Parents Increasingly Worried About Cost of College, Chris Sonzogni highlights results from an annual Gallup poll that surveys Americans on their financial worries. For 15 years in a row, retirement planning was the biggest worry among participants, but in this year’s survey, parents of children below the age of 18 were more worried about paying for college (73 percent) than retirement (68 percent).
Based on new data from the Discover Student Loans Survey, it’s clear why parents are concerned about paying for their children’s college: they can’t afford it. The survey polled 1,000 parents of 16-to-18-year-olds with intentions of attending college, 16 percent of which stated they plan on providing no financial support. A more troubling statistic is the 24 percent of parents want to contribute to their child’s education, but can’t afford to pay anything at all.
The most common answer among respondents (31 percent) was that they plan on covering 25 percent of their child’s college fees. With only 9 percent of parents intending to pay for all of their child’s education, that leaves 91 percent of Millennials with the burden of paying for some or all of their college expenses.
As college expenses continue to increase (146 percent increase since 1984-1985), so do your chances of having to spend the next few decades paying for them. This isn’t lost on your parents either, with 58 percent of parents saying they are very worried about how student loan debt will affect their child’s ability to buy a home, a car or other large purchases.
So your parents are worried and they can’t pay for all of your college expenses, what should you do now?
The first step you need to take is to have an open conversation with your parents about how you plan to pay for college. See how much they may be able to help you and what their expectations are. This should all be considered when choosing what college to attend, where to live, what major to study, and how much in student loans you’ll need to take out.
After figuring out how much you’ll be able to expect from them, calculate the total amount you’ll need to pay for school (try this college cost calculator) based on the costs of the college you’ve chosen and how much you can put towards your tuition.
Now it’s time to get to work. Every dollar you put towards your tuition now will save you a few dollars on the backend, which will be crucial when it comes time to rent an apartment, move to a city for a new job and laser off your spring break tattoos. Graduates in the class of 2014 have to pay back a record average of $33,000 to their alma maters – a dubious honor to be sure.
The next four years, or seven if you take the scenic route like I did, will hopefully set you up on a career path for the next 30-40 years. Unfortunately, you may be paying for your college tuition for the next few decades as well. Plan accordingly.
Looking for ways to save up for college? Read my 8 Odd Ways to Make Money this Summer.
Additional Resources: Why College is Still Worth It, U.S. Parents Increasingly Worried About Cost of College