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Articles / Applying to College / Should Single Mom Use Savings or Loans to Pay for Son's College?

June 1, 2011

Should Single Mom Use Savings or Loans to Pay for Son's College?

Question: I am a single mom with a son who is going to a state school in the fall (approx $18-20,000/year). I have $43,000 saved. He has qualified for both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. Should I take both or just the Subsidized? Or no loan at all and spend down the fund as we go? I am trying to figure the least amount of debt in the end for him. Thank you!

This "dean" is not qualified to be anyone’s financial counselor, but I bounced your question off of a pro, along with my proposed response. She agreed with my suggestion, which is that you should split the difference. That is, take out some subsidized loan every year but also dig into your savings. You don’t want your son to graduate with a lot of debt, but repaying a loan is good for a credit rating.


Something else that your son can look into is the possibility of being a Resident Advisor on campus. At many colleges, this sort of position is open to qualified juniors and seniors and maybe to sophomores, as well. R.A.’s get free room and, at some schools, free board, too. So you wouldn’t have to touch as much of your savings if your son can keep costs down this way.

(posted 6/1/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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