My son is picking a college, but we don’t agree on the costs. Help!


Q. My son is deciding on his college. He has some acceptances with money, and others where he’s not accepted yet and we don’t know what the cost will be. He thought I would pay it all, no matter the cost. I think he should go to whatever gives him the most aid because I don’t know how much I can afford to pay and I don’t want him stuck with loans. But I also don’t want to have him resent me because he doesn’t go to his first pick. How can we come to a decision on this?
— Not made of money

A. Selecting the right college can be tough.

What you need is a conversation.

Start an open and honest dialogue with your son regarding the cost of college and how much you are able to contribute to that cost, said Marnie Hards, a certified financial planner with Aznar Financial Advisors in Morris Plains.

“He is old enough at this point to understand that there are limits to what you can afford and what the consequences of those limits are,” she said.

You can discuss with him exactly how much you can contribute to his college education and then review the offers he has gotten — and will get — to show him exactly what that translates into in terms of his personal obligation, Hardsd said.

A frank discussion of how much he would need to secure in college loans to make each of the possible choices work would likely be helpful in the decision making process, she said.

You may want to try to get as granular as possible by translating the loan amount into what he would expect to have to pay monthly and for how many years once he graduates with his degree, she said.

“I believe that it is helpful for students to have some skin in the game,” Hards said. “It provides them with some important financial education and also a level of appreciation for the education that you and he are paying for that he might not otherwise have.”

Once he has a solid understanding of how much he will need to contribute based on the cost of attendance after any financial aid, grants or scholarships he has been offered, as well as how much you are able to contribute, he may end up making a different decision that he would have otherwise made, Hards said.

Good luck to you both.

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This story was originally published on March 14, 2023. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.