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College Costs a Pretty Penny

Education expenses shock the Miller Family. How will they prepare for their daughter's education costs on top of their own student loan debt?

“Do you want to pay for college or wedding? Pick one.”

A family of three pose for a picture with college merchandise.

More and more, college affordability has been a big topic of discussion at our house. Ashleigh has been accepted to all three of the colleges she has applied to and has been offered some sort of scholarship from each, too. (Congrats, Ash! We’re so proud!) One of the colleges, her top pick naturally, has a higher price tag than the others. So, our conversations typically involve a calculator and some hypothetical math to see what we can afford, the need for more scholarships, what we as parents can contribute, and what sort of student loans Ashleigh may walk away with at the end of her four years.

On October 1, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened for the next school year. We were told you were better off to submit it early, especially if you’re eligible for grants. I’m not one to procrastinate, so I gathered the documents we needed and applied the very next day – I would’ve done it that day, but we were on another college visit. At the end of submitting all our information the FAFSA pumps out the EFC (Expected Family Contribution). This number is almost laughable. I wish somewhere on the application it asked parents, “Did you have to pay for your own college?” or “Are you still paying on your own student loans?” or “Are you ready to deplete all of your assets to pay for your child’s education?” or “Do you want to pay for her college or a wedding? Pick one.”

I don’t mean to be a “Negative Nancy”, but there is a certain amount of sticker shock that comes with doing your college research and planning. Ashleigh has done what she can to help offset some of these costs. She’ll graduate high school next year with 15 college credit hours already. And she is making applying for outside scholarships like another part-time job.

I’m super grateful that Jennifer, our financial planner, helped us to refinance Brett’s old student loan. We’ve had that student loan for so long it’s become like a pet – a very old, expensive pet. But reducing the interest rate and making that payment a little smaller has given us some breathing room in our budget and has allowed for us to look at what we might be able to contribute towards Ashleigh’s college in the years ahead.

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