Financial Resource Center


School Your College-Bound Child

by Carrie Anton / April 4th, 2022

The SATs scores are in and soon your high-school senior will become a college freshman. You've done your best to prepare your child for college life. But have you had "the talk"? The money talk, that is. While there likely have been many discussions regarding the value of a hard-earned buck, college requires a new level of financial responsibility. The Education Data Initiative estimates that the average in-state public college tuition for 2022 is $25,487, while a private school college is $35,807. That's a hefty sum for one year of education, and it doesn't factor in the necessary extras: books, lab fees, food, room and board, and other incidentals. It's these extras that often catch students off-guard.

As a parent, you likely helped your college-bound child secure tuition—either by providing him or her money, encouraging good academic habits for scholarships, or by co-signing student loans. However, parents should have regular discussions with their children about money so that the topic isn't taboo. Not sure what topics to tackle? These conversation starters will get you going.

"What bills, fees, and expenses will you have?"

Sit down and plan a budget together. Visit the college's financial aid website to find most of the costs, including tuition. Other items to consider:

  • Room and board: Will your child be living in a dorm or off-campus? There are pros and cons to both but, in a dorm, he or she won't have to worry about energy bills, security deposits, and setting up Wi-Fi. Dorms are sometimes mandated for incoming freshman, but if not, be sure your child understands all the expenses involved with living in a rental.
  • Food: Meals typically are provided with room and board when living on campus. However, students will at times need to grab a meal when in all-day classes or in late-night study session.
  • Fees: This depends upon the area of study. Science and art classes tend to have fees for the labs and equipment involved.
  • Books and supplies: Books are expensive—even used books cost a lot of money. Then there are supplies like toner cartridges and calculators.
  • Travel: How much will they need to get home during semester breaks or when a little family time (or laundry doing) is needed.
  • Entertainment: As much as you hope your student will be in class or studying, the reality is that he or she also will be going to concerts, movies, and various campus events—all of which cost money.

"Who pays for what?"

With a better understanding of all the costs involved, your graduating senior needs to understand where the money comes from to pay for it all. If your student is taking out student loans, for instance, a good budget can help him or her not take out more than is needed. For example, if the travel budget is $1,000 a semester, calculate how many trips home that means. Will it include gas money while on campus, bus passes for getting around, or monthly parking fees? 

"What will you do if you run low on money?"

Even the most responsible kids will run into money struggles once in a while. How will you advise your child? Here are two schools of thought:

  • Get a job: Campuses and local communities offer all kinds of entry-level employment opportunities. While students' academics need to remain a priority, a part-time job can help balance expenses and build some working experience to add to a blank résumé.
  • Sink or swim: Students who always can rely on parents to bail them out will have a harder time making financial decisions because they simply haven't had the practice. Assess the situation your student is in and gauge your response based on the severity of the issue. Return to the budget and see if areas can be trimmed to make up for a deficit. If not, can he or she pick up a few more work hours for the next week or two, for example, to strike a balance?

"Are you going to get a credit card?" estimates that college students will take on an average of $3,280 of credit card debt. Credit cards are not all bad, though, if the student is responsible and pays it in full each month. Doing so is a great way to build credit. However, if they spend more money than they earn, it might be a better to avoid them altogether.

When discussing credit cards with your child, stress these important tips:

  • Use them wisely and don't charge more than you can pay off when the monthly bill comes.
  • Check out credit card options at your credit union. As not-for-profit institutions, credit unions generally offer better rates on credit cards.

The day you drop your child off at campus will be here before you know it. Start the money talk now and continue it throughout their college career. Listen, advise, and help your child find on-campus resources, a campus or local credit union for example, to help them learn how to take their first steps in financial wellness.

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