College Experience or College Regret

I’ve been a subscriber to Consumer Reports for longer than I can remember.  They have always been my “go to” source for confirming the reliability of a product or service and the final say in validating my purchases from washing machines to waffle makers, as they do not accept advertising and remain independent of corporate influence. 

So I was thrilled when I saw that Consumer Reports had dedicated their August 2016 issue to student debt and surveyed over 1,500 Americans to get information that they could use to educate the public and bring about reform.   

Student debt has certainly been something that has been talked about for several years but the “crisis proportions” it has reached and its impact on multi-generations has exponentially increased its presence in the media.

Of the many facts and figures contained in the various articles in the issue, one of the more disturbing quotes that I read was that “45% of people with student loan debt said that college wasn’t worth it”.

I'll admit, my initial reaction to this quote was to curl up in a ball in the fetal position or down an entire pint of my favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream.  Regret feels like such a sad emotion, full of lost opportunity and unfulfilled experiences,  but it doesn’t have to be.  Instead, regret can be the opportunity to look at what was done before and use the information to choose a different path.  

The results of the survey and the information shared in this article provide the chance to ask questions that help to create a different plan - one that yields more optimistic results for your children’s college experience and your family’s financial future.  

Below are five key questions that you can ask your child that encourage them (and you) to consider the financial aspect up front in their overall college planning:

1.  How can I create a plan so that I can graduate and know that college was worth it for me?

2.  What will create a worthwhile experience for me academically, socially, financially (in terms of overall college cost)?

3.  What are all of the financial options that are available to me? 

4.  What amount of debt am I comfortable with post-college?

5.  What college(s) will best help me to maximize my overall goals and minimize my debt?

Notice that these questions do not assume that there is one best way.  There are many examples of students who graduate with large student loan debt and manage that extremely well.  The key, is that they PLAN for this up front and understand what is involved, as opposed to students who made financial aid decisions without obtaining any help or had no knowledge of what they got themselves into.

Taking the time to explore and discover the answers to these questions help students and their families to think about the overall outcomes and intention they want to achieve academically, socially,  emotionally and financially – which turns college regret into a successful college experience!