As a parent, you’ve probably taken on the role of doing most of the practical planning as you prepare to send your child off to college or university. Unfortunately, this often means more than simply finding maps, restaurants, and setting up appointments with college representatives. Now, if you’re one of the lucky parents that isn’t doing all the planning, good for you. However, if you are the practical planner, it’s important that you don’t overlook one important factor: Finances. Here are five financial questions about college and university that every parent should know the answers to.
1. How much does College or University Cost?
This question is very broad, but one that shouldn’t be underestimated. Each college and university will have a different total of tuition. However, knowing the general cost of admissions will help you get a better idea of the total amount of money needed to invest in your child’s future. It’s important to revise your questions to more specifics if the answers you’re receiving only pertain to tuition. After all, there are many additional costs, and all need to be considered. Here’s what your total estimate should include:
- Room and board
- Living expenses
- Supplies and equipment
2. What Financial Aid Programs are Available?
Even if you can afford the total of college or university for your child, a little bit of financial help is always appreciated. Ask about the financial aid available. While the financial aid officer won’t be able to give you a definite amount without the specifics, you can get a good, general estimate of what you will have to pay. Additionally, financial aid deals can often be negotiated to get the best possible award. Some of the most common types of financial aid programs that can help with this paramount investment into your child’s education include:
- Student loans
3. What if my Financial Situation Changes?
The world can be quite unpredictable, and that’s one word you never want to hear when it comes to finances. When you invest in your child’s post-secondary education, it’s not only for the first year – or even the duration of their enrollment. Depending on the financial help you’ve opted for, you could be responsible for that amount until it is fully paid off. Ask the college or university what will happen if your financial circumstances change while your child is attending their school. Some will give you some time to appeal, whereas others will re-evaluate the financial aid. Some things to inquire about include:
- Loss of employment
- Death in the family
- Significant injury or illness
4. What Happens with Financial Aid After the First Year?
Each year provides the perfect opportunity to readjust things as needed, depending on the financial aid you’ve been awarded. Some are only one-time-only awards, whereas others remain throughout the course of enrollment. Discuss the different avenues that are available for your child’s financial aid after the first year to see if there are any better options. Maybe they have to maintain a certain average in order to keep the financial aid, or stay in a specific major. Additional things you may want to consider include:
- What could stay the same
- What could increase
- What could decrease
5. How can my Child Graduate Early?
While this may not seem like a financial question right off the bat, you must remember that the longer your child is in school, the more money will be required. Generally, the fewer years it takes the graduate, the less borrowing and tuition increases you have to endure. Again, this depends on the school, major, and courses they’ve enrolled in, but it’s certainly worth asking. Once you have the information needed, you may want to take the time to discuss the following with your child:
- If they take longer to graduate, the loan borrowing potential could run out
- Tuition and loan costs could increase over time
- If your financial circumstances change, your child may have to become more responsible for the finances of his or her schooling
Post-secondary education and finances – two things that go hand-in-hand with one another. However, with the right questions you can feel more confident about this significant yet important investment you’re making for your child’s education and future.