Parent PLUS Loans: Should You Pay Your Parents Back?

T’errah is like lots of us: She feels guilty about all the money her parents are taking out in loans to send her to school. T’errah feels especially guilty because her school is very expensive. But she’s loving it to death.

I am a rising sophomore in college. I am in a huge dilemma right now because I cannot afford to stay at the school that I am enrolled in. I attend an out-of-state school costing me about 36K-37K a year (including housing).

These parents have more money than your parents. Should you help out?

Man. That’s some serious expensiveness there, m’friend.

I really love my school, but I do not want to place my parents in such a long debt path. I really need help on deciding what to do.

An admirable thought, for sure. Where do your parents stand on the issue? How much annual debt are they incurring to keep you there, and can they handle it financially? If they don’t care, and they can handle it just fine, then I wouldn’t worry about it.

However, parents are known to grit their teeth and smile even if something is killing them as long as they know it’s making their little girl happy. If my daughter desperately wanted to stay somewhere that she was in love with, I’d probably start robbing convenience stores before I could tell her no.

You know your parents better than we do — would they tell you if it was killing them? Or would they just grin and bear it?

I know that I could transfer, but here’s the problem: I LOVE MY SCHOOL! I don’t know if I’ll be happy at another school.

OK. What is it that you love so much about your school? Look at both schools and ask yourself — is there reason to believe that I might find the same things to love at the new, cheaper school? Will you be able to accept a situation that’s a little less good than the one you’re in now, buoyed by the knowledge that you’ve eased a lot of your parents’ financial stress?

Another obvious question here is the quality of education. If you transfer, will you still graduate with similar earning power as you would if you stayed put? If not, then you may want to stay put. If you’ll have significantly more income if you stay, then you can afford to pay your parents back more money after you’re out in the working world.

Which brings me to another point. If you’re serious about relieving some of your folks’ financial discomfort from the loans, then resolve to help them pay once you’re out of school. You don’t have to make the whole payment, of course, but you could vow to scrape together $100-$150 per month and send it to them. Every little bit helps!

Please inform me of what ways I can alleviate this situation. I’ve received financial aid from the fed government but it is absolutely not enough. I have already taken out a stafford loan, do you recommend doing private student loans? Please help, and thank you for your time.

Most of this really depends on your parents and your relationship with them. If you’re really tight with them, then my suggestion above actually works out better for everyone. Your parents are going to get a better rate on a PLUS loan than you’ll get on a private student loan. So whoever’s paying the lender — whether it’s them, or whether it’s you via them (by sending your parents some money every month) — you’ll pay less interest that way.

It also builds in an extra layer of protection for you, because your parents aren’t going to bust your credit score if you get in a pinch and have to miss a payment (although I’m sure we can agree that if you can possibly pay them, you should, if that’s what you’ve agreed to).

— Anyone else out there paying Mom & Dad back for the loans they took out to send you to college? Let us know in the comments below.

17 thoughts on “Parent PLUS Loans: Should You Pay Your Parents Back?”

  1. I was actually in the same situation. I’ve already graduated, but I stayed with my private school because I loved everything about it – size, classes, professors, location, and most of all the community. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else because it had everything I had hoped for in college life. As for the tuition part, my parents and I took out a lot of loans. I’m definitely planning on paying them back. I think taking out the loans was worth all the memories and experiences I had at my college. πŸ™‚

  2. Same situation here too. My parents had agreed to let me come to the United States to study, and then I transferred out to a bigger and more expensive school than I’d started out with… to study engineering. Now they’re in a real pinch and have had to take out a couple loans to foot my tuition bill – makes me feel really guilty! but like Judge Josh says, they’re the type to just smile and hide their frustrations away. I’ve been blessed with awesome parents, definitely have to give them something back for all this that they’ve provided for me. I’d stay in the same school if I were you, T’errah. Transferring can really be a pain in the neck. Settling down all over again is a real hassle. Everything changes around you – for me, it went as far as really lowering my GPA. Stick with the uni you’re in, get your good grades, make your parents proud. It’ll be your turn to take care of them someday soon and you can show them how much you appreciate them then.

  3. This is absolutely something to discuss with your parents. Are they okay with the loans or no? And do they WANT you to help pay back? If you’re like me and can’t work many hours while you’re in school, offer to start paying your parents once your own loans come due, or when you get a job after college, whichever happens first.

  4. My situation is similar, except it’s my dad who is stubbornly insisting that I go to an expensive, prestigious out-of-state school, regardless of his ability to pay the loans back. I know for a fact that I will have to help my parents with the loans, and I’m pretty sure the increase in earning power from going to this school won’t make up for the difference in debt. My concerns are multiplied by the fact that I could have gone to a few other state universities on full rides.

    I guess I will have to grin and bear it, though, because I know my dad would have never forgiven me if I turned down this expensive, prestigious school.

  5. I agree with Judge Josh, stay at the school you love and help your parents to pay back the loans later on. I know you must feel really guilty but your parents are adults, at the end of the day they took on the financial burden and it won’t be going away anytime soon. In the mean time, make the most of their investment by getting good grades and taking advantage of all the educational opportunities you can! Good luck πŸ™‚

  6. raoul ngunza mukaza

    First of all,parents must pay for school because this is theirs obligation.Children are right to ask school fees from parents,they didnt want to be born.
    Second,children do not pay money to the parents,they can help theirs parents in an other way like taking care of them,giving to them what they need,visiting, to be close to them,share informations.Money, children can give but not saying that Im paying you money that you gave to me ,for my studies

    1. First off, you sound selfish! it’s partly the parents obligation ALONG with the child! The student should have figured out a way to help their parents pay for the bill that THEY’RE creating! “They didn’t want to be born” has nothing to do with whether the students should help their parents out.

  7. Parent’s are like rubberbands. If you stretch them out to capacity, eventually, they’ll break. Also, quite often even after you have your degree we hit an unexpected patch or one we didn’t fully prepare ourselves for like, a new baby, new house, job loss, marriage, or divorce. While you have the money pay your parents back so that when or if a unexpected patch arrises they might have the extra money to help you out again. Plus it will put them in a good mood, and show your responsibility if you help.

  8. Leave. College can seem amazing while you don’t have to deal with financial realities, but ultimately private education is a rip-off. Public schools can be great- particularly the bigger ones. The public university degree is worth more or less the same as 95% of private institutions (not much these days- don’t expect a great paying job right out of college). Allot of people are told to avoid big schools- this is silly. The trick is to find a big + cheap school and be proactive- look for the best teachers, pursue your interests. After college these are the skills that you will need anyways. Don’t worry you can’t be happy other places. Moving is well worth the effort and momentary discomfort, unless you have an extremely unique position. Sorry Judge Josh, but $100-150 per month is not going to particularity help on $37,000- it is a nice gesture.

    $37,000 + per year for “memories” – please, consider that memories don’t need to cost this much
    Are memories worth years of your parents wages?- NO, whatever they want to give you

    PS- If you are very close to graduation -keep going and hope that the degree is that much better than the one you would get anyways.
    Also, do you have a specialty yet? Something you are really good at and training hard for? If not, don’t worry- but, do consider that college for you is likely to have very little to do with you eventual career.

  9. I go to a private, first tier university, that is not cheap. I am an independent student, so I’m the one on the hook for the loans. Thankfully my GPA and low income got me a lot of scholarships/grants so my loan debt when I finish my BA degree will be $18,000+interest. But that is still lower then what I would have from the state university in the same city–they offered me next to nothing in scholarships and my loan with them would have been just over $20,000 each year.

    Check with your school. Depending on your and your parents income you might qualify for need based aid from the school–private colleges sometimes offer need based not gov funded. If you have good GPA (at least 3.5) you probably can qualify for private scholarships, too. That’s what those alumni and endowments at private colleges are for:)

    Also your degree probably is related to a professional organization–area of study you are getting a degree in–like doctors, plumbers, electricians, etc… all have professional associations. These often offer scholarships/grants to students going into their field. Several horse associations and even the dairy council offer them. This includes unions, or associations your parents belong to as well.

    Make an appointment with your financial aid officer and have them help you find every scholarship/grant that applies to you. They can help you organzie deadlines for applications, and help you make you search work for you. I found several grants I had never heard of after talking to my uni’s aid office. Turned out there were some I didn’t realize I qualified for, and hadn’t applied to yet.

    Worst case scenario they can’t find any more help for you. But at least you’ll know your options. They can also help you make a budget based on your potential job income once you garduate–it will not be 100% accurate since you aren’t working yet. But it will give you an idea what you could afford to payback to your parents.

    Next up get together with career services at you school. Talk to this advisor and see about internships/job opportunities in your field. They can also give you a realistic outlook for your field, like average time it takes students to find work in field, starting pay, best options on graduating.

    I know these things sound odbvious but you will be surprised how many students wait till last minute to do these things. Then it takes them a year or two to get set up and running. It has been my experience that most students don’t fully utilize these advisors. So their loss is your gain.

    Also there are programs that forgive at least part of your loan debt for public service–Peace Corps, Teach for America, etc… So check into them, too. They give you not just a job and loan forgiveness, but work experience. Don’t overlook military service either. My cousin got his loans paid down thanks to the Marines.

    So talk to your parents, you finacial aid advisor, and career services. Between the lot of you, you can find a solution that works for your situation.

  10. You’re right to feel guilty. At least your parents can pay. Some can’t afford to send their children to college and it is up to the child to pay for it.

  11. Most parents don’t mind putting their children through University. We view it as just another step. (In Canada it is common to invest in government ‘matched’ registered education funds when the child is an infant through age 8 or 9, which mature as they enter college and pay out for the 4 years.)

    What irritates parents about assuming a debt load to pay for their child’s higher education is if the new adult a) parties hearty b) fails to put any effort into maintaining their grades c) becomes a ‘permanent student’ without a career path or d) purchases expensive luxuries such as big screen TVs or tattoos with summer job money instead of being aware of that loan.

    Speak to your parents about their feelings. We are rational beings and know our own minds, although each parent may have different feelings about money. Money is a tool: use it carefully and return it if requested when you get a real job.

  12. This is now the second year where I have experienced the same situation as T’errah. I go to Chapman University, but in order to save money, I commute versus living on campus and I don’t pay for meal plans. But tuition and books are still outrageous, but I love the campus too much and I feel that there is more to Chapman than the price. My parents have taken the loans my financial aid package allowed, but i received less this year from the Chapman grant, which hurt because now my parents are paying $3000 more than last year. Luckily I have a job on-campus and this year I plan to use my paycheck to help pay for some small things, like saving up for books for next semester and school things that I can get. Although I’m not making enough to help pay back for the loans, at least it’s a few less things they have to pay for and essentially I am gaining small independence. In the meantime I am still scholarship hunting!

  13. I totally agree with Tarra. I love everything about my school. My mom was just qualified for a PLUS loan this year and I am definitely planning on helping her pay for it. Scholarships are a great way to help cut down on the loan load though. Good luck with that as well.

  14. wow…where are the parents point of view on this subject? Because I’m a parent of a Freshman in college and another one that was just accepted for next fall, and if you think I can just whip out the checkbook and start writing checks, then you have another think coming. I told my boys a long time ago that I could not afford to pay for their college but they could live at home rent free while they went to college (saving $10K each per year on room/board) leaving them with the $7-8K for tuition/books. They knew they better step up to the plate getting good grades and look for scholarships and start saving. Needless to say I have two hardworking boys living under my roof. Not two young men with their hands held out saying ‘Gimme gimme gimme’. One attends a fantastic Engineering School (even mentioned in a previous Judge Josh quip) and the other will major in Middle School Education so he better get a taste now of being broke (another lesson of ‘Finding your true passion’). They each save their money: no cell phones, no video movie collections, no MP3 Players, no money sucking gadgets and all the while claiming “I’m too broke to help pay for college”. What about other parents out there? I can’t be the only one.

  15. This post is quite old, but I’ll offer my story anyway. My mother and I worked out an agreement just before I headed to college for undergrad. Now mind you, I received no federal aid because based on the numbers, my parents made too much. So with the help of loans, my mother agreed to pay for the first two years of undergrad, and I would pick up the last two. Now while I did sacrifice an amazing, private university education for a state school (an awesome state school though,) my debt after graduating is severely less than it would have been otherwise, helping us both. So my suggestion to those who don’t quite want to put the full financial burden on the parentals- get a job (to look like a worthy independent) and TELL (not ask) your parents to stop claiming you on their taxes as soon as possible. Your parents must understand that you cannot acquire any financial aid on your own while you are still being claimed. I’m a walking testimony. Yes, their tax returns may look way better while you’re being claimed, but is a few measly hundred dollars worth acquiring their child’s education debt? No. I explained this to my mother, and she obliged immediately. Aid poured out from all sources (federal subsidized loans, work study, etc.) as soon as I began filing my FAFSA as an independent, which I began doing my junior year. Now having graduated last May and making a decent salary, I do pay my mother $150 a month to help her end of the loans, on top of my own at $200 a month. So, be nice and consider this option as well, especially if you have a sibling that is about to burden your parents once more with college funding. Good luck everyone!

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