Here's a scary scenario that may seem familiar: Your kids are off to college in September, but, thanks to the mortgage, the monthly bills and the looming threat of being laid off because of the coronavirus, you haven't been able to put any money aside. But you don't want your children to become more participants in the nation's $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. So what can you do at this point?
Take a breath, because you have options, even if you're not in a financial position to just whip out your checkbook. There are multiple strategies you can invoke to help mitigate costs, share the load and launch your kids or grandkids into the workforce without a crushing financial burden.
"It's hard, but millions of parents have done it,” says Kim Clark, assistant director of the Washington, D.C.–based Education Writers Association. “There are a lot of different little things you can do to reduce your costs."
So what are those strategies? Here are a few tips from the experts.
1. Fill out the FAFSA
This seems like a basic point, but around a quarter of families don't even complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — because they think they won't qualify, because it's too complicated or because they miss deadlines.
That's a mistake, and a big one, because then you don't have access to most of the scholarships and grants that could help lower your burden. In fact, 31 percent of college costs were covered by scholarships and grants in the past school year, according to the Sallie Mae report “How America Pays for College 2019.” To take advantage of this aid, however, you have to complete the FAFSA. “Parents generally underestimate their eligibility for needs-based financial aid,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at SavingforCollege.com.