Split blue image, woman with tablet, man at laptop, words Ask the Experts

Should I Take on Extra Debt to Attend My Dream School?

It's tempting to take on extra student loans or other debt to attend your dream college, but your financial future is important. Here's some expert advice.

Marty O'ConnellMarty O'Connell
Executive Director
Colleges That Change Lives
The current economic climate and tough job market has most students and families carefully deciding how much student loan debt is reasonable. It is also important to ask your dream college what their tuition, room, and board increases have been in the past four years so you can have an accurate estimate for what your future borrowing will look like. Investigate endowed scholarship opportunities for enrolled students (sometimes these are listed in the online college catalog) to see if you might eligible for additional awards once you are enrolled. Before making a final decision, carefully investigate the college’s outcomes for graduate and professional school attendance and/or employment as well as services available to help students transition from college to the workplace or graduate school. Ask about availability of internships during your undergraduate years, as this will increase your opportunities for employment following graduation, which is what most worries students who are graduating with high debt. Finally, is it possible that one of your other less expensive college choices could become your dream college? Many students report being happy at their “second choice” school after they are enrolled, loving their classes and the community of new friends.

CounselorBrendan Coughlin
Former President of Education Finance
Citizens Financial Group
My biggest piece of advice is to do your homework when it comes to taking on loans to pay for your college education. Both federal and private student loans are well suited to meet this need, but which one is better depends on the situation. For many families, private loan rates can actually be substantially lower than the federal programs, especially if a parent or other qualified co-signer applies with the student. At the same time, federal programs typically offer additional options in the unfortunate case of unemployment after graduation, such as income-based repayment, which is typically not available with private loans. We always encourage families to do their due diligence and shop for the best loan option that fits their specific needs.

For more expert advice on this topic, check out our article on 4 Tips to Make Your Dream School a Financial Reality.

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