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Confused about how much he will have to borrow

Johnnylama6934Johnnylama6934 2 replies1 threads New Member
Good morning. I am very new to this forum. I joined because frankly, I am very confused about the actual amount of student debt my son (HS class of 2020) can expect to have to take on to get his 4 year degree.

I have read several articles online that claim the average student loan debt for a 4 year degree is about 33K. What i am confused about is the fact that despite my son getting Pell Grants, State Assistance (TAG), merit awards and scholarship offers; all totaling between approx 15K and 30K; in the end, the amount he will still need to borrow ranges from between 17K and 25K PER YEAR.

He applied to 8 schools in total. 2 out of state and 6 here in NJ all of which had very different costs associated with them. He is an excellent student with mostly A's his entire life including most advanced classes. He is the captain of HS soccer team and is a top sprinter on this track team. He is also involved with various other extra-curricular activities all of which make him a very well rounded young man. So when he got these offers, we were very proud and thought they were good offers. Only to find out that at best, he will graduate in 4 years with almost 70K worth of student debt.

How can this be if the according to the experts, the average student loan debt for a 4 year degree is about 33K?

As his father, i feel like i dont have all the information necessary to help guild him to make the best decision for himself.

So confused...please help.

Thank you.


41 replies
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Replies to: Confused about how much he will have to borrow

  • collegemom9collegemom9 823 replies30 threads Member
    Averages are just that, an average of all the debt. Some borrow nothing and others borrow far more.
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1349 replies25 threads Senior Member
    edited February 20
    I think the reason the number is so low is that many students either live at home and commute to a local university, or they live at home and start at community college. Some states have lucky students- their in state tuition is already quite low. Is there a university that is commutable from your home? That would perhaps help him go to college without all the (unadvisable) debt. Also, the amount he can borrow is under $30,000 for four years- it would be you who borrowed the rest for him.
    edited February 20
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  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 656 replies1 threads Member
    Are the NJ colleges affordable with only federal direct loans in student's name only?

    Could take a gap year to look for more affordable options. If he starts borrowing $17k or more per year with you the parent as cosigner, you might have too much debt.You might not qualify for loans to continue in years 2,3,4 to finish a degree.
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9265 replies93 threads Senior Member
    You are in a tough spot. I wish you had posted last year and folks could have given you advice in advance. :(

    Agreed with the above poster that average debt is absolutely meaningless. Financial aid is based on individual income, assets, and family size.

    Did you run the NPCs for the school's on your son's list? If so, were the offers way off? Could there have been a mistake on your FAFSA?

    Do you have any schools in commuting distance to your home?

    Is it possible to do 2 years of community college and then transfer?

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  • Johnnylama6934Johnnylama6934 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Wow. Thank you for all the comments.
    I guess i just dont understand how people do it.
    "If he starts borrowing $17k or more per year with you the parent as cosigner, you might have too much debt.You might not qualify for loans to continue in years 2,3,4 to finish a degree."

    Does anyone else have a child who is borrowing this much each year?
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  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 656 replies1 threads Member
    edited February 20
    I am not an expert.

    I have only heard of a child borrowing $5,500 federal loan freshman year, or more if considered independent under federal regulations.

    Have you looked at federal website

    Have you looked at CC thread https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/1486647-financial-aid-faqs.html#latest

    Consider, what is your credit rating?
    edited February 20
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  • laraleilaralei 774 replies59 threads Member
    You are in a tough spot, as it is very late in the game to start looking at more affordable options.

    To answer your question, I am sure there are parents/students willing to take on that kind of debt. We were not.

    I have 3 kids. Oldest lived at home, commuted to local jr college. Graduated w/ federal loans. We bought the used car. She is a PTA.

    Middle was high stats. Went to University of Alabama, with full tuition plus engineering scholarships, Pell Grants, and full federal loans.

    Youngest had stats that were high enough to get some merit scholarships at our PA state schools, not Pitt or Penn, our true state schools. She had some Pell grants, state grants, and will also have full federal loans. She is studying computer science.

    So you see they all took different paths to go to college, but they should be able to pay back their loans without too much trouble. That was my goal.

    I will caution you to proceed carefully. I would advise against starting college without
    a way to fully fund 4 years. I know of a few kids in youngest's class that had to leave school after one semester because they couldn't afford to pay for the second.

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  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek 4680 replies56 threads Senior Member
    if you share his GPA and test scores, schools with automatic scholarships might be options and some with rolling admissions are probably not too late to apply.
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3626 replies24 threads Senior Member
    edited February 20
    @Johnnylama6934 I helped a friend in NJ in similar circumstances last year. Student had a near 4.0 UW, similar ranking, and applied to a variety of options in and out of state. He was Pell and TAG eligible and the cheapest option (before loans) was Rutgers-NB. Rutgers-Camden would have been cheaper and I suspect that Stockton also would have been less, but the student did not want to apply there. Full COA at Rutgers-NB was about 15K/year before loans, IIRC. Commuting would have brought those costs down at least 10K - minus gas, higher insurance costs, wear and tear on an older car, and time spent in traffic.

    If Rutgers is on the table, be aware that the COA is padded on the website by around 5K for incidentals. The cost of tuition/fees/R&B is currently about 29K. That can be reduced further if the student moves off campus after the first year. Books can be rented or purchased used on line for less. The student also can take a work study job, which will probably contribute about 3K during the year. And he can use summer earnings to offset costs.

    If there is nothing that is truly affordable at present, maybe check Stockton? It may still be taking applications and I have heard that the Atlantic City campus is nice.

    With NJ Stars, your child would likely qualify for full tuition at CC and with strong grades, there is extra scholarship money under NJ Stars II when transferring to a four-year instate option after completing CC.

    Best of luck to you and your son.
    edited February 20
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  • bgbg4usbgbg4us 1539 replies45 threads Senior Member
    edited February 20
    johnnylama - just fyi: you do not have to take out that full amount of the parent loan if you think you can get by with less.

    look closely at the Cost Of Attendance break down on each financial aid paper. Many times colleges include several thousand dollars for personal expenses and travel expenses. These expenses do not have to be what the colleges estimate, often the real expenses are quite less.

    I would never take out a parent plus loan to cover those parts of college for my kid.

    Also, dorms - room and board costs - really are money suckers. if your kid can live at home or move off campus as soon as possible, you will save money there.

    although we are midwest, and costs are less, my kids are doing student loans only (and only subsidized at that). The kids all working during the year and summer to pay for their incidentals, books, transportation etc.

    College price are shocking; my point is that if you are taking out a parent loan, examine what it is for - and you do NOT have to take out the whole amount. (and same with student loans too)
    edited February 20
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6202 replies1 threads Senior Member
    I have heard of a few cases of students getting part way through university and then finding that they could not borrow enough money to finish their degree. This left them with debt, but no degree. This is definitely something to avoid.

    One friend of a daughter was a strong student in a very tough financial position. She did two years at a local community college, and has now transferred to a local public university with merit aid. She was able to live with her father the whole time and therefore avoid paying room and board. This is a very economical option and she is going to graduate with a pragmatic marketable degree and very little debt.

    I agree with others that "average debt" does not mean much. Many students have no debt, many have large debts.

    $70,000 is a LOT of debt for a new university graduate. As a parent, if either daughter were to take on this much debt I would assume that I would have to pay it off -- which would have been tough. I think that you need to very seriously seek out less expensive options, even if this means starting at community college or taking a gap year.

    Did your son apply to in-state public universities such as various campuses of Rutgers and/or NJIT and TCNJ?
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  • cshell2cshell2 963 replies11 threads Member
    What is your lowest cost option and what are the breakdown of costs? As mentioned earlier you don't have to borrow to cover the standard 2-3K of "personal expenses". I told my son he could work summers or get a work study job on campus to pay for his nights out and deodorant. :smile: Don't take a loan for that. Is there a campus within commuting distance where he could live at home?

    I wouldn't let my kid borrow that much for undergrad. He'd be living at home and attending the local university the first two years for sure. In our case, the Pell and state grant would cover that 100%.
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  • thumper1thumper1 77248 replies3436 threads Senior Member
    For freshman year, your kid can borrow $5500 in his own name. That’s it.

    Any additional loans will either be yours or need to be co-signed by you. Are you willing to do that?

    Most colleges do not meet full need for all accepted students. It’s prudent to look for options that for your budget.

    Hoping some affordable options are on the application list.
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  • tdy123tdy123 1040 replies18 threads Senior Member
    At schools that don't meet full need, the gap between what the school offers and what it charges can be far greater than the yearly statutory federal loan limit. This happens because:

    a) the vast majority of schools do not promise to meet "full need."

    b) every school, whether the promise to meet full need or not, has their own definition of need.

    c) even at schools that promise to meet full need, the schools idea of what "full need" is may widely differ from that of the family and student.

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  • mommdcmommdc 11862 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Run the net price calculator at Rutgers campuses.
    Look how much tuition, fees, room and board are (direct costs).
    Did he receive any merit scholarship?
    How much does the NPC say that the TAG is? Pell is up to $6,195 a year with $0 FAFSA EFC.
    Student freshman loan is $5,500. It goes up a bit for sophomore and junior/senior year.
    He can probably earn a few thousand at a summer job.
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  • dadof2ddadof2d 250 replies19 threads Junior Member
    @Johnnylama6934 How much are you able to contribute?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7502 replies79 threads Senior Member
    I love it when CC is like this! OP, you have some real experts here, giving great info & advice.
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1570 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I’m surprised his cheapest in-state option for a mostly straight A student would be $17k/year. Depending on test scores, he should gave gotten pretty good merit at Ramapo, Stockton and Rowan. If you go Pell and Tag on top of that, I wouldn’t think you would still be at $17k/yr. did he get merit at any state school?
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  • mamommamom 3703 replies24 threads Senior Member
    So sorry you and your son are in this position. It may make more sense now that you have found this site to have your son take a gap year and reapply to schools where he may get large merit. Do not take out 70K worth of loans for undergrad. Many people have saved since their kids were little, have grandparents helping out, or make enough money that they don't need to worry about cost, etc. There a lot of parents just finding out how expensive college is now. when their kids have applied and been accepted. Stinks, but finding affordable colleges takes work and planning that starts before sr. year. Best of luck.
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  • SarripSarrip 643 replies23 threads Member
    I'm in NJ. DD20 was admitted to aNJ Public
    I’m surprised his cheapest in-state option for a mostly straight A student would be $17k/year. Depending on test scores, he should gave gotten pretty good merit at Ramapo, Stockton and Rowan. If you go Pell and Tag on top of that, I wouldn’t think you would still be at $17k/yr. did he get merit at any state school?

    @NJWrestlingmom - We received FA for Ramapo today. Tuition is $15086, Room/Board is $14478. DD20 received a full tuition Merit Scholarship. According to their calculations we will be out of pocket $19, 228 per year which includes books, travel & other education related expenses like a laptop, school supplies, personal expenses.
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