College Planning

Helping Your Child Pay for College

This article discusses several ways that parents can help financially support their children in college, such as helping them find scholarships and cosigning a private loan.

5 Ways to Help Your Child Pay for College

American families use a wide variety of methods to pay for their children's college tuition. According to SallieMae's 2014 “How America Pays for College” survey from the 2013-2014 academic school year, 30 percent of students used their parents' income and savings to pay for college, and 31 percent used scholarships and grants. Parent borrowing accounted for only seven percent of how students paid for college, while student borrowing actually accounted for a slightly larger piece of the pie at 12 percent.

While savings and scholarships are obviously the ideal way to pay for college, they're not always a realistic option for every student or family. If your child is headed off to college in the near future, here are five options for helping them pay their way.

1. Help them hunt for scholarships

Scholarships and grants don't cost parents or students a dime. Your child's school guidance counselor should be able to provide your child with info about national, state, and regional scholarships and grants (academic or non-academic) that your child may qualify for. ( The U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website can also help you jumpstart your search.)

2. Take out a Parent Direct PLUS Loan

A Parent Direct PLUS Loan is a low-interest loan issued by the U.S. Department of Education that can be taken out by parents of dependent undergraduate or graduate students to pay for the full cost of their child's tuition, minus any grants, scholarships or financial aid received. If your credit is in good shape, you can fill out and submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine your eligibility, and consult your child's college's financial aid department for info about requesting a PLUS Loan.

3. Cosign on private loans in their name

If you'd prefer not to take out loans in your own name, you can assist your child with finding the best financing available by agreeing to cosign on privately funded student loans. Again, as with the Parent Direct PLUS loan, your credit history may be a factor. It's important to be aware that cosigning on any student loan may have an effect on your personal credit. Cosigning may also make you responsible in the event your child defaults on their loan.

4. Borrow from your savings

If you still have several years to go before your child starts packing for college, consider setting up a 529 College Savings Plan in their name, and dedicate as much of your expendable income as you can over the next several years. 529 Plans (when used for college or other postsecondary education plans), are tax-free. (You can find more information about 529 Plans in the Protective Learning Center.)

5. Use your current income

Paying out of pocket is often better than borrowing. Most colleges offer tuition payment plans that allow you to pay off the cost of a semester's tuition in monthly installments. If you can't afford to help cover the costs of your child's tuition out-of-pocket, perhaps you can help them by covering the cost of books and/or everyday living expenses instead.

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Help Pay for College

For many students, paying for college may seem like a daunting task. For parents who want to help pay for college, there are multiple options. Whether you can help pay for college by giving some of your time to aid in scholarship research, or you can help by applying for loans, every little bit counts. For more information on all of your college planning options, visit the Protective learning center.


All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Learning Center articles may describe services and financial products not offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries. Descriptions of financial products contained in Learning Center articles are not intended to represent those offered by Protective Life or its subsidiaries.

Neither Protective Life nor its representatives offer legal or tax advice. We encourage you to consult with your financial adviser and legal or tax adviser regarding your individual situations before making investment, social security, retirement planning, and tax-related decisions. For information about Protective Life and its products and services, visit www.protective.com.

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