Apr 15, 2012 Lindie Johnson

Parent's Guide to the College Cost Conversation

How will you pay for college?
 Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

College is expensive and ideally the financial planning for college should start early but life does not always work out the way it is planned. It is never too late to understand the basics of what the college cost will be and how a family can actually afford a great school. The key is research and having important conversations with your child before the first application to a school is sent.

There is a lot of paperwork that is required to attend any college and some seem to have more than most. Your child will have guidance from his or her high school in this process and chances are you can attend a workshop or two to help you understand this process.

But before you begin, you need to first sit down with your child and discuss possible career choices. The career choice will help you determine the best course of action on how to pay for college. Once you have determined a tentative career path...have an earnest conversation with your child about what is affordable for your family. Make sure your child understands what the monthly payments will be on any student loans he/she borrows and help them understand what a typically starting and mid-level salary are in the field of their choice.

Once you have sat down and discussed the family finances with your child, visit some school websites that offer a major that corresponds with your child's desired career path and use a financial aid tool called a net price calculator located at the school's financial aid website. Try one out for University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, or Bryant University for example.  It will give you a rough estimate of the cost at that particular school for an average family.

With an estimated cost of school in mind, you can now start working on how to pay for college. There are a vast number of resources available to you. You may want to visit The College Planning Center and review the Financial Aid 101 tutorial. You can also take a moment to read the different options for financial aid. It can be surprising to learn that many of the top priced schools are within reach if you plan accordingly and receive the right financial aid package.


College cost often deters many students and parents but it should not. There is help available and there are many different ways to pay for school. It can be challenging but if you take your time and research the various options for financial aid, it can become a streamlined process. If you are searching for how to pay for college for your child...visit The College Planning Center or download RISLA's Ultimate Guide to Paying for College for step-by step instructions on how to pay for college or to learn more about the options available to you.

Published by Lindie Johnson April 15, 2012
Lindie Johnson