I recently came across an article identifying tips on how divorced parents can handle paying for their children’s college education. A recent statistic from the College Board states that tuition, fees, and room and board can cost an average of $46,950 for a private university and $20,770 for an in-state university for the 2017-2018 school year, and these figures are projected to increase 3% per year. Divorce can be a stressful time for families, especially if a child is heading for college. Here are some helpful steps that you and your ex can take to ensure that your child’s college education (and paying for that education) remains a top priority during this difficult and challenging time.
Lay everything out on the table
Whichever is the most comfortable way of coming to terms with current expenses with your ex, such as arranging a meeting with a financial adviser or mediator, it is important lay everything out on the table and know where you stand financially. Who will pay for college? Will both parents contribute equally? Will college expenses come out of child support? You need to fully understand your current financial situation and from there determine how you and your ex will equally divide college expenses. Consider comprising a spread sheet to keep track of expenses, so there aren’t any unexpected surprises down the road. Communication with your ex is key to creating a successful financial plan for paying for college.
Studies have shown that 2 out of 3 couples do not have a financial plan in place for their children’s college education in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse. Consult with a financial advisor to find ways to invest in your children’s education when they are young. Divorced parents need both financial and legal advice during this time. Invest in a 529 College Savings Plan or an alternative college savings financial plan so the funds accumulate tax free. Many divorced parents may consider dividing the 529 into two separate accounts or arrange to have both parents keep track of the account. But no matter what, planning ahead is a necessity. Time flies, college is expensive, and you don’t want to be caught off guard.
Apply for financial loans, scholarships and grants
There are many resources out there to help parents pay for college, but you need to know where to look. Be sure to apply to FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) every year to receive federal loans and financial aid. Research online sites such as FastWeb.com or Chegg.com for scholarships. Many high school counselors and college advisors can give you and your child financial resources of where to apply for scholarships and loans. Many high schools offer “college nights” and “financial aid nights” for parents; it would be a good idea for both parents to attend so you both receive the same information at the same time. Also, check the university’s websites, since most offer scholarships, loans and financial aid.
Let your child have some control
Let your child have some control regarding college application deadlines, college visits and what school they want to apply to. After all, it’s their future, let them have some input. If it is not feasible for both parents to visit a campus at the same time, work out a plan that doesn’t put the child in the middle. It is important for your child to keep his or her grades and test scores up to get into college and qualify for scholarships. Keep your child’s interest front and center and try to put your differences aside during the college application process.
Paying for college can a very stressful process for divorced parents and following some of these steps will hopefully help make it a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.