COLLEGE COSTS: Study finds parents contributing less - KMSP-TV

COLLEGE COSTS: Study finds parents contributing less

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A new study from Sallie Mae found that the recession and slowly-recovering economy is putting added stress on parents' ability to pay for a college education for their children -- so what can be done?

According to the study, more parents than ever are starting to push their kids toward grants and student loans, and FOX 9 News spoke with Bruce Helmer, a financial advisor and co-founder of Wealth Enhancement Group, to get his advice.

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Q: What were your thoughts when you looked at this study?

A: The first two thoughts I had are: I think sometimes, some people look at numbers and it seems overwhelming and maybe they, they throw up their hands in frustration and say, "Why bother?" You shouldn't do that.

Secondly, start as soon as you can. My wife and I kind of started saving for college before we had our children in anticipation that we would have children. If you wait until they're 15 or 16, it's too late.

Q: There are people out there who cannot afford to do that, so then what?

A: One piece of advice I give clients all the time -- and I see parents that feel bad that they aren't doing more or can't do more, clearly can't do more, living paycheck to paycheck -- I tell them, "Don't feel bad. All you can do is all you can do."

Most of the people watching us right now can't fully fund their kids' education. You help them in whatever way you can, and if they really want an education bad enough, they'll find a way to get it done through grants, work study, scholarships, financial aid, loans and so forth.

Q: If we had to look at the grants and loans, what is the difference between the two? How do I know what's really out there?

A: Grants you don't have to pay back; loans, you do. Grants can be federal. Government is the biggest supplier of grants, but it can also be an institutional grant. The grant is either based on merit or need. The government grants are only based on need, but your financial institution may give you a merit grant if they want you as a student and if you are in demand, they'll help you.

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