Parents of students recently admitted to colleges often experience a sense of panic immediately after their elation about their child's success. The panic is in relation to the amount of money colleges expect them to contribute toward their child's college costs. Parents who have saved money they thought would be sufficient are surprised that they don't have enough to pay the balance owed after scholarships and other forms of financial assistance are applied.
Fortunately, most parents are eligible to borrow PLUS loans. PLUS or Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students are federal loans. Unlike federal loans offered to students, parent loans allow parents to borrow the balance due on college costs while undergraduate student loans are limited to $5,500 to $7,500. Students whose parents are not eligible to borrow PLUS loans are permitted to borrow larger amounts each year.
When borrowing is necessary, I advise families to consider allowing their child to accept a student loan first because the interest rate is lower and the student does not have to begin repayment until after graduation. Parents can then borrow the difference needed to meet college costs. Parents go into repayment after their PLUS loan is disbursed. However, parents can request a deferment that will allow them to go into repayment later. Interest accrues during deferments.