Consumer Reports on Student Debt Crisis: 10 Questions Every Family Should Answer BEFORE College

Jul 13, 2016
Parent Conversations, Activity, Paying for College, Research, Student Loans, Teaching Strategies, Current Events, Activities

Reading through another depressing report on the student debt crisis but surprised to see the author, Consumer Reports. As I was surfing through the report I found the most illuminating chart on student loan repayment that I have seen in capturing the outcomes of various repayment options.

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It is an interactive chart with each bubble representing a different repayment option.  It shows 1) the complexity of repayment choices when the future is uncertain (8 bubbles) and 2) how the payment amounts vary dramatically based on the choices made. When your students click on a bubble, they get details of how the figures were calculated.

That was an interesting graphic but what I liked most about their report was this: Having the College Money Talk with a list of these ten questions (and links to excellent resources to answer the questions) that every family should discuss:

  1. What does your student want to get out of college?
  2. How much will college cost, bottom line?
  3. How much federal financial aid can our family really expect?
  4. Are financial aid offers good for four years?
  5. How much debt can one student manage?
  6. Should parents contribute, and if so, how much?
  7. What about community college?
  8. Any other ways to cut costs?
  9. How can we know if this expensive education will pay off?
  10. What if my student has trouble repaying his/her debt?

What if you made this the capstone project for your Going to College unit? What a service you would be providing to your students. Go for it!

Here are some great follow-up questions to ask your students about this resource:

  1. Do you think there are any essential questions that are missing from this list?  
  1. Which question(s) do you have an answer for? Which one(s) do you still need to figure out?
  1. Which of these questions do you think is most difficult for students and their families to answer? Why?
  1. How could NOT knowing these answers before going to college impact a student and his/her family?
  1. What steps would you recommend to a friend who is hesitant to answer all of these questions due to lack of time, lack of data and/or knowledge, or lack of family support?

Want this resource and questions in slide format to use in class? Click here!

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.