In many families, and in Latino ones especially, paying for a college education isnCollege without loans't usually part of a family's financial plan. There is no tradition of putting birthday money away or opening a higher education fund to celebrate a newborn. So, when the time comes for a high-school student to go to college, the lack of financial preparation may place the family in a difficult dilemma: forego college or pay with student loans.
Going to college should be a natural discussion in the family. "If you finished high school, you should consider yourself college material," says financial expert Andrés Gutiérrez. "Just as children go to middle school after elementary and to high school after middle school, kids and their parents should plan for a natural transition to college from high school."
Making a decision of going to college must be accompanied by parents training teenagers that money is earned. Many parents of modest beginnings, including a great number of Latinos, may want to make life easier for their children and have them avoid working jobs they had to growing up. "Kids should work the moment they are legally able to (at 16 years of age in most states). They need to establish strong ties with the concept that money comes as a product of hard work," says Gutierrez who believes that the combination of a strong work ethic with college education creates a well-rounded professional with all the skills he or she will need to succeed.
With no college savings, aren't loans a must?
"People don't see a college education without a student loan," says Gutierrez, who decries the fact that students and their parents are usually unaware that the average graduate finishes with an average of $27,000 in student loan debt.
Instead of getting into student loan debt, Gutierrez proposes a 2-step plan for students who don't have a college fund:
1. Go to a school you can afford: Go to a local community college during the first two years. Tuition at most junior or community colleges averages $1,500 per semester. Plan to live at home and commute; it's a great time for the student to consider what major to choose without paying tuition at a premium.
2. Get your degree in-state: In-state public college tuition averages $4,000-$5,000 per semester. If you're able to stay at home and commute (30 minutes to one hour drive), do it! Work with the local financial aid office to break down the remainder costs not covered by grants into smaller, monthly payments.
There are a number of other ways to save when it comes to textbooks, labs fees and other expenses, including attending college part-time while working full-time. But regardless of how you attend college, know that there are ways of maintaining that graduation goal while avoiding an insurmountable student loan debt.
Financial expert Andrés Gutiérrez is the host of "The Andrés Gutiérrez Show" and creator of Paz Financiera. A successful entrepreneur and small-business owner, Andrés Gutiérrez knows what it's like to start with nothing and build lasting wealth. After hosting a San Antonio financial radio program and appearing frequently as a financial expert on the Telemundo television network, Andres joined Dave Ramsey's team in 2009 to bring the message of Financial Peace to the Spanish-speaking community.