Financial aid offers are in for fall 2013 and parents are surprised by the gap between the financial aid offer and the bill for the freshman year. Families manage to pay the difference through a variety of strategies.
Families are using education savings accounts, taking out home equity lines, borrowing from retirement plans or relatives. Another popular strategy is to take out a Direct PLUS loan for undergraduate students. In addition to PLUS loans, some parents decide to take out an education loan from their bank or credit union. Private education loans carry higher interest rates than PLUS loans.
The PLUS loan allows credit-worthy parents the option of borrowing up to the difference between what financial aid offers and the cost of college.
Families where parents are unemployed or who have had financial challenges are sometimes turned down for PLUS loans. Fortunately, when that happens the amount of money the student can borrow is increased.
Families with large gaps to fill should consider talking to the financial aid office at their college to see if there are other options they can offer. If the finanicial aid office cannot offer relief, families can consider lowering their costs by enrolling children in community college or a four year college close to home that will allow them to avoid housing costs.