Funding a Future for Our Children

Education unlocks enlightenment and success. Most folks would agree on that. But the rising cost of four-year degrees and graduate studies has driven the rise of competitive two-year and industry specific accelerator programs. And even with a healthy competitive landscape of program and degree options, good education comes at a cost. If you have children, taking that cost into account is part of good parenting.

 Recently Love What Matters, one of our favorite blogs featuring uplifting and family-friendly content, posted an incredibly heartwarming story of how one Dad shouldered the cost of his kids’ family’s quite literally. Boston native Fred Vautour put all five of his children through Boston College on a modest salary. A custodian, Vautour spent the last 15 years working the graveyard shift at Boston College. Starting out as a cook, he’s worked for the college now for 22 years.

 Like many Dads, Vautour’s career is characterized by hard work and sacrifice. But unlike most of us, Vautour’s employment at Boston College guaranteed his kids heavily discounted tuition—taking $51,000 off the normal $66,000 tuition assuming they meet the admission requirements. They did, and several even received scholarships, which left the amount Vautour ended up paying for each child at about $3,000 per year. In May, his youngest child, daughter Alicia, graduates with a nursing degree.

Whether you’re pondering how to fund tuition at an institution to which your child’s already been admitted or you’re trying to start a plan while he or she is still in diapers, making the right decisions about college funding is never simple, even for those of us in finance. A recent Forbes article, however, made one piece of advice very clear. Parents: Stop Taking Out Loans For Your Child's College Education. The author, Robert Farrington, reports on personal finance and higher education. “Contrary to what many financial aid officers will say,” Farrington explained, “you shouldn’t be taking out loans to pay for your children’s education – under any circumstance.”

Parent PLUS loans, or student loans taken out by parents on the students behalf, Farrington said, are rife with pitfalls. They cannot be forgiven under the Federal Teacher Student Loan Forgiveness Program, and for a variety of technical reasons, borrowers won’t get relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he added, “Parent PLUS Loans are not eligible for the income-contingent, or pay-as-you-earn repayment plans, so the only qualifying option is to repay the loans under standard repayment.” Considering using a home equity line of credit to pay tuition? Farrington raised an even bigger red flag against that.

As daunting as the goal of a debt-free or low-debt graduation may seem, Farrington reminds us that many students have done it. The number one step is to get an early start searching out financial aid programs, grants, and scholarships, he recommends. Any tuition costs not covered by those options, Farrington says, should be borrowed via a federal student loan taken out by the student.

Farrington’s takeaways:

For Parents: You can’t get a loan for retirement. Your kids can get help paying for school, but nobody will help you pay for your own future.

For Students: There are a lot of future options if the student loan is in your name, including student loan forgiveness and various repayment plans that can lower payments.  

To streamline the search for funding like scholarships and grants, Forbes also spotlighted an enterprising student who developed An App To Help Students Get Free Money For College. A junior at Drexel University who grew up in a low-income family in Alabama, won $1.3 million in scholarships before entering college, according to Forbes. More recently, with two friends, he decided to turn all the savvy he’d accumulated into an app—and a social enterprise. The app, Called Scholly, lets users search for scholarships using eight parameters: state, race, GPA, major, need or merit, gender, grade level, and miscellaneous (you’re an athlete or have ADHD, for example).  

For most, a good education doesn’t come easily, academically or financially. But with a creative combination of aid and student loans, scholarship search tools like Scholly, and a bit of Fred Vautour’s determination, we can all offer our kids a bright collegiate future without burdensome debt. And while employment of any kind at a college isn’t an option for the majority of us, we can all commit to some advanced planning and steadfast research to put our kids a few steps closer to debt free graduation day. And that’s something anyone can proudly work toward, no matter what you do. 

“I think with each kid, he just got more and more proud. Said Vautour’s daughter Alicia. “It will be interesting to see him on graduation day. I’m sure he’s going to have tears of joy that we’ve all made it through.”