Debt Free College: The Wrong Conversation

It should start with a responsible college game plan and conversation. How many families with a huge amount of college debt actually looked at the process of leveraging the financial aid that was available to them before they got accepted and were already emotionally committed, and then just “settled for” the award? My guess is most of them. Why can I say that? Because in the past decade I have been in front of over 1000 families a year and helped hundreds of college advisors across the country to provide guidance to these families. So maybe I have some experience outside of just reading a blog.

I hear the politicians try to solve the college problem by offering something that just sounds good to get votes. The problem is, what is the meat behind the offer? Is it debt free for only the student? Or the family? Is it sustainable? In the USA we have, by far, the best university system in the world. Families from China to Europe, to the wealthiest business people in any region, want to send their children to the USA for college. Why would we want to let the government interfere with that process?

Is there already a solution on the table? I say, yes. I have written a book called Cracking the College Financial Code because I have seen so many families overpay for college and create millions of dollars in additional debt, because they did not know how to fill out the financial aid form (FAFSA) or find the right college for their child. You could use advisors that charge a good fee and get a ton of information about colleges that will help your child attend a university. But you won’t, because you don’t know about them. You only have the benefit of FAFSA night at your local high school and the advice of parents who graduated their seniors last year. This is all part of the problem. If families actually knew how to use the system to their advantage, we would not have $1.4 trillion in student and parent loans. If 529 plans and pre-paid plans were the best solutions, we would not have $1.4 trillion in college debt. It is time that we discuss using a KNOWLEDGE based solution, backed by actual experience, instead of politicking for votes, with no intention of solving the problem.

I have helped families navigate the FAFSA like a good CPA will help them navigate the tax code. I have had the tough conversations with children who want to go away to college “just because”, with no real game plan, no real job opportunities, and parents who are overwhelmed with the idea that they have to send them, or they will be bad parents if they don’t let them “TRY”. Well, I do not believe in the $20,000 freshman year “experiment” at the WRONG college, costing mom and dad a ton of money and creating more debt than necessary. When a child goes to the right college, with the right award, and the right career direction, they will graduate about 12-18 months sooner, saving $30-50K in debt per family. They will have better jobs, have better educational experiences, have better internships, and get into better graduate or master’s level programs.

This debt reduction is based on knowledge and does not require a new savings program, product sale or consulting fee.

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