How Guilt Can Lead to Student Loan Debt

I know you want the very best for your teens. And if you’re like most parents, you’d do just about anything for them. That can make for some tough decisions when it’s time to talk about paying for college.

The cost of college is one of the biggest stressors for parents (and kids) at this stage in the game. Last time I checked, college is expensive. With the way tuition costs have been skyrocketing, it seems like more and more people are relying on student loans to get through college. In fact, that’s the norm at this point. Don’t even get me started on the $1.6 trillion student loan crisis in our country right now!

All the conversations around student loans might make you feel conflicted—like you don’t know the best way to give your kids the future you want them to have. You might even be experiencing some guilt as you realize just how big a financial commitment college really is. I get it. So, let’s talk through how guilt can lead to choices that ultimately won’t help your kids, and some alternatives that will help them.

Here are three reasons you might feel guilty as a parent when it comes to your kids’ college education.

You can’t afford it

Like I said, college is crazy expensive. A lot of people pretend they can afford it by taking out loans to cover the cost. But you know what? That only results in you, or your kids, having a huge burden of student loan debt to deal with when they graduate.

It’s actually healthier to admit your family doesn’t have the funds to pay for college. Talk with your teen about how college can still be a possibility by going to an in-state, public school. Also, look into work-study programs, attending community college, getting high ACT/SAT scores, grants and scholarships. I’m looking at you, FAFSA form!

You think your kids deserve to go to their dream school

I say this all the time: The only dream school is one your kids can graduate from debt-free. I understand they might’ve been wearing Ivy League swag since they were little kids, but they shouldn’t go there if they can’t pay for it without loans.

Real talk: A degree is a degree, no matter where it’s from. In the real world, the right employers are going to care far more about an employee’s skill set, work ethic, and character than where they went to school.

You feel like you shouldn’t fund your future if your kids can’t fund theirs

Listen, I’m all for higher education. But college is a privilege, not a right. If you have the financial means to help your kids pay for college, and choose to bless them in that way, that’s awesome! But that shouldn’t happen at the expense of your retirement fund.

Remember, college is not a guarantee—retirement is. Focus on building a fully-funded emergency fund, paying off any debt you might have, and investing 15 percent of your income into retirement. Then you can start thinking about your kids’ college fund.

There are so many ways your kids can get a debt-free education. And there are so many smart ways you can help them prepare for that next step!