Divorce and College. Two words that are both equally hard to manage on their own without much research, guidance and support. But what happens when you are divorced or getting divorced and at the same time, your children are approaching or even already in their college years? The combination can feel overwhelming. In this article, I will address the topic of divorced parents paying for college, and offer tips on how to make it all work.
I’m a divorced mom who separated right before my oldest child entered high school. I have always been financially minded and with my divorce, I found myself extremely concerned about how to pay for my children’s college education since the cost for college is so expensive and always rising.
I met with a financial adviser at the time whose advice was…”You have plenty of years. Come back to me after the dust settles.” That was not the right answer for me! As someone about to go through a divorce or as divorced parents paying for college, it’s important to be fully informed so that you can make smart decisions no matter how old your children are.
For me, it’s now 10 years later. I am proud to say that my oldest child is in Graduate School with zero debt. I attribute that to good financial planning. My youngest is soon approaching high school.
As I always say…Life happens. Maybe it’s due to a job loss. Maybe it’s due to a medical illness. Maybe it’s due to a divorce. Many of us are just not able to save up for our children’s college education as we had once hoped. But life goes on. Even after divorce. And we want to provide the best that we can for our children.
As many of us are aware, one of the leading contributors to divorce is financial difficulties within a marriage. So now… what happens when you are spending money that you don’t necessarily have on splitting your lives into two separate households and yet you still need to pay for college costs for your children? How do divorced parents pay for college?
This is exactly why I created College Financial Prep! My mission is to help parents navigate the path towards college affordability and reduce the amount necessary to spend to secure a great college education for your child. The key here is strategic planning, which is vital to saving money on the cost of college. Below, you will find guidance, no matter how old your children are, so that you can plan to
* Reduce your costs.
* Acquire merit scholarships and/or need based aid.
* Minimize the need for student loans.
Here are my tips for divorced parents paying for college:
1. Plan carefully with your mediator or attorney as to who has residential custody and receives child support. This can greatly impact your cost of college.
2. Insist that even if a former spouse will not be contributing to the cost of college, that they will participate if the college financial aid offices request their financial information. (It is possible to request a waiver from the colleges to exclude the other parent, but the colleges do not have to accept or approve the waiver request.)
3. Every state considers college differently when it comes to divorce. If your co-parent refuses to participate in college costs, don’t panic. There are many options and possibilities where only your finances will be considered and merit scholarships and/or need based aid can be offered.
Things To Know:
4. Apply to the right colleges and universities. Learn how to be strategic!
* If divorced, it might be important to look for colleges that will not request the other parents financial information.
* If your finances are limited, determine your net costs for each college before submitting applications.
* If you are looking to receive merit scholarships, analyze the student’s academic achievements and match up with each college to determine likely awards.
* If you have a gifted student, know that the Ivy league colleges typically offer full need based aid. They do not offer merit scholarships because everyone is that bright!
When It Is Time To Apply To College:
5. You will want to include on your child’s college list the schools that will be financially friendly for your household both in terms of need based aid, merit scholarships and bottom line price.
6. Both you and your child should be flexible with the colleges that you are considering. It is possible for great savings (and a great education) to come from the colleges that may not be a top choice contender for you or your child.
7. Communicate with your teen about college and costs. Realize that students are only able to take out student loans of up to $5,500 for their Freshman year and that the balance of the yearly cost is likely to fall on the parents. Plan for at least two years of college attendance for an Associate’s Degree and at least four years for a Bachelor’s Degree.
8. Consider the impact of a second marriage on the financial aid to be offered to a student. Depending on the college, it is possible for them to ask for the financial information for up to four parents, even if the step parents will not be contributing at all to the cost of college.
9. Merit Scholarships are available to many students. These are not just for A+ students. Unfortunately, merit scholarships will likely not be offered to your child by their “Reach” schools. This is where flexibility comes in. Your child’s target and safety schools are more likely to offer merit scholarships. And safety schools with Honors programs may offer the most amount of merit scholarships (free money) to your child.
10. Need based aid is offered by the federal and some state governments in addition to the universities themselves. It is important to submit the FAFSA application and all other financial aid applications requested by those schools on your child’s college in order to qualify. FAFSA will ask for the custodial parent’s information. The other forms may ask for the non-custodial parent’s information as well.
Vicki Vollweiler, a divorced Mom, is the founder of College Financial Prep. With her MBA and Certified Divorce Coach training, Vicki has helped clients successfully save up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each on the cost of college. It is through strategic planning every step of the way; from the list of the colleges to apply to, to financial aid applications, appeals and negotiations, and then student loans, that clients are guided towards saving. Learn more: https://www.collegefinancialprep.com/
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