Sending Your Kid to College on a Broke-ass Budget

Updated: Oct 28, 2011 16:24
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Kids grow up faster than we want them to and college is not only essential for a great future, but it is a large part of the American dream. However, if you have been washing dishes, waiting tables, or just been broke most of your life and have struggled to raise your kids but gave them everything you had this is a frightening time. You have worked hard to make sure that they have everything they need and may not have always been able to give them what they want, but college is much bigger than that fancy baby doll or monster truck they wanted when they were little.

The sheer guilt of not having enough money to pay for their college education, especially if your kid did very well in high school, is soul crushing. This is not the time to blame yourself, but rather reflect on the fact that you did their best and how you can help them going forward. The first place to look for money for college is grants and scholarship options. The best options are the ones that you do not have to repay.

If you have good credit and meet certain other requirements, you may be able to get a Direct PLUS loan to help pay their expenses. You could also consider getting a signature or collateralized loan from a private bank to pay their expenses.

If the previous choices are not an option, and they aren’t interested in enrolling in online courses,  you may just have to let them go it alone. I mean at this point, they are “moving out” so why not give them that extra shove into adulthood into what we so lovingly call debt. They can apply for student loans and financial aid. I would recommend that you not leave it up to the Department of Education or the bank that issued the loan to talk to your kid about borrowing money. Do your homework on student loans and explain their responsibilities to them. After all, if they default on those loans, who do you think they are gonna call? You guessed it, dear old mom and dad.  Most colleges and universities also have work-study programs to help students pay for school.

Although the lending regulations to kids under 21 and college students have become slightly more strict, now is also a good time to talk to them about debt as well since college is usually the springboard for most Americans debt anyway. They will probably leave college with a small house in the country worth of debt attached to their name, so the best thing you can do if you can’t cough up the dough is to make sure they are educated about debt from the start.

Another very crucial piece of advice is do not wait until the last minute and try to scramble to pay for college. With all due respect, you probably have been broke for sometime, I mean it didn’t just creep up on you. Short of the winning the lottery or coming into some other lucrative payout, your situation may not improve much. Waiting until your kid is shopping for a cap and gown is not the time to be trying to figure out how you are going to foot the bill for their education. Really you should start saving/planning for college from the time that kid comes into this world. Realistically speaking, with bills, trying to get food on the table and all the other expenses these bundles of joy bring that just isn’t feasible. Broke-asses should certainly start thinking and planning for college by the time their kid is about to enter junior high. That gives you a good six years to come up with a plan of action.

This should be a joyous time in every parent’s life but can be particularly stressful if you are flat broke. Planning is probably the best tool that you can use to relieve some of the anxiety and get your little one (well maybe not so much anymore!) into a good college.

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Brandi Jarath - Miss Parsimony

Brandi Jarath - Miss Parsimony

Brandi Jarath started her credit counseling business after years of giving credit and financial advice to friends and family. She has 15 years of experience in credit and finance and has held positions in the accounting, mortgage, and banking fields. She donates her services to victims of domestic violence and low-income women.