Student loans are Satan’s work backed by the federal government. According to Forbes, Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, which is nearly equal to the entire annual GDP of Canada. About half of that debt is mine.
I knew very little about financial aid going into college. I had one scholarship, a need-based grant, and accepted as much money in federal loans as I was offered. I got an overage check every semester, which I spent on living expenses and choppa suits. This continued while completing my master’s. After graduation I saw a student loan bill for $60,000 and was like, “Man, y’all can go ‘head and have these degrees back.”
Now, as a financially savvy father of three, I am intent on ensuring my kids do not face a similar same student loan debt crisis. Here’s my multifaceted master plan to get my kids through school without spending much money or accruing significant debt.
I’ve worked for two universities. Both offered a 50 percent tuition discount for employee dependents. Another university, where I almost had a job until my wife said it was too far, offered free tuition for dependents of employees who have worked there longer than three years. If you follow this blog, you’re aware that I’ll work wherever. Thus, to my get my kids free or discounted tuition I’ll get a job at their university of choice. Any job that will take me. Even if it means returning to my ol’ college gig as French fry guy at the dining hall, where I specialized in yelling, “FRIES COMING UP!
Another option would be to reduce our household income during the financial aid for college years. In determining expected family contribution and need-based aid, the FAFSA counts brokerage and bank accounts, income, and investment properties as assets. It does not count money in retirement plans or principal home value. That presents the perfect opportunity to take time off from full-time work and report a meager income on the FAFSA, provided we stick with our investment plan and aren’t forced to work in a traditional 8 to 5 job that saps your soul.
Lastly, we could strongly suggest that the boys complete their first two years of higher education at a community college, especially if they want to go back to California, which has a robust, well-funded community college system. You won’t get the full university experience at the junior college, but they can still hang out on the big campus and no one will know the difference. You just have to wear a book bag and look young. Besides, once they transfer to a four-year school they’ll have a better idea of what they want to study and be closer to legal drinking age.
We’re still 11 years off from our oldest even being of college age. Who knows? Maybe they’ll be brilliant and receive full scholarships. Maybe they’ll demonstrate more athletic prowess than they have in their YMCA leagues and earn athletic scholarships. Maybe the number of states offering some sort of free college (17 at my last count) will increase. Hell, maybe they won’t even want to go to college. But it’s not too early to plan for this uniquely American problem of putting young students in debt for life.
(Note: Apparently my student loan debt will be forgiven in one of two ways. The first being that I am close to having 10 years of full-time employment at nonprofit organizations. Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, I can qualify for full loan elimination as long as I have made 120 income-based repayments, which have thus far ranged from $0 to $400 a month (having a big family decreases payment amounts). The second way is that the federal government gets tired of asking your broke ass for money and forgives loans after 25 years if you’re on the aforementioned income-based repayment plan, though in this instance I would have to pay taxes on the amount forgiven.)