College debt can be a pain for parents

By Annastazia Camarena

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but if it did students would still need a forest to cover their college tuition.

As college tuition steadily increases, many are finding out that student loans and financial aid aren’t covering the cost of their tuition. To ensure their college student can get a degree and compete in today’s workforce, families try to do whatever it takes to pay for what financial aid and students loans won’t.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of college tuition and room and board has nearly doubled for public universities since the year 2000. As college tuition surges, the number of parents taking out loans follows suit. The rate of parents falling victim to debt from taking out student loans for their students has become a huge financial problem which I refer to as “the uncomfortable elephant.”

Money can be a messy thing, especially when it comes to family. Imagine the stress that four years of college tuition can do. Contrary to the price tag of many universities, parents are continuing to send their students to their college of choice with the help of parent loans.

The Federal PLUS Loan is a loan borrowed by a parent for their student to help pay for tuition and school-related expenses. The Parent PLUS Loan is recommended by colleges because it is not a need-based loan and allows parents to send their students to their desired college regardless of cost. Eligibility for the PLUS Loan depends on a modest credit check that finds whether the parent has adverse credit or not. Due to the few requirements set for the Parent PLUS loan, many are eligible to take the amount needed to fill the gap financial aid would not cover. Often this financial gap is more money than parents can repay in the time set by loan companies. Keep in mind, the interest and fees that come along with the PLUS loans are not cheap.

The ease with which a parent can take out a large loan to cover the costs of college tuition for students is frightening. Parents who are taking out these PLUS loans are never assessed on their ability to repay them, which poses a real danger on those who are not financially ready. Unlike the repayment options available for student federal loans, Parent PLUS Loans do not offer the luxury of an income-based repayment plan. When parents fail to repay their monthly bill, they have no choice but to defer their payments.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the 2010-2011 school year alone, 1,935 people have taken out plus loans for their NIU students, borrowing an average of $9,012. The total amount of money borrowed with Parent PLUS Loans for that same year came to a total of $17,437,520 for NIU.

If that does not make your jaw drop, I don’t know what will.

For all who must take out loans, be aware of the fine print and your financial situation to avoid falling victim to student debt. I also hope this will give you the push to call and thank your parents for paying outrageous amounts of money to send you to college.