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Parenting: College Costs

To some, parenting includes contributing to a child's college expenses.  College costs and the related debt can be huge today. As a family law practitioner and mediator, I see too many people in their mid-fifties or older getting divorced and having to pay significant college loans that they signed for their children. The total amount of the loans often exceeds $100,000. It's like having a second mortgage to be paid when you may want, or need, to retire.

I also see families who want to plan for college expenses (even though in RI, a court cannot require a party to fund a child's college education since the student is over the age of 18).  Yet, people feel guilty if they do not pay for a child to attend his/her favorite college even if the costs are $40,000 or more a year.

There are ways to save for and on college tuition.

1. Start a 529 educational plan as soon as possible and contribute to the plan on a regular scheduled basis.

2. Have a discussion with your child in the tenth grade and discuss financial limits. There are some scholarships that are only available to juniors who apply. If you wait for a child's senior year, you may miss some opportunities.  Your child should share the responsibility to search for opportubnities.

3. Have your child consider some of the non "brand" schools that are currently popular. Some of the schools with less demand may provide more scholarships.

4. Review websites such as to learn of scholarship opportunities. You may find a corporate scholarship.

5. Have your child apply to schools where she may be in the top 20% of the incoming class; that school may want to raise it's average SAT scores and entice your child with scholarships and financial opportunities.

Educating a child is important.  However, it should not severely hamper your ability to retire or manage health care costs in the future.  

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Law Office of Steven J. Hirsch, Esq

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