The costs of a college education today are astounding. And, if you are a parent with a child in college or still paying off debt, you probably all too familiar with the statistics about the staggering costs.

According to [Student Loan Hero]( “Student Loan Hero”)™, “Americans owe over $1.45 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among 44 million borrowers.”  Essentially, those 44 million folks equate to about [70 percent of graduates]( “70 percent of graduates”) holding debt obligations (as noted in U.S. News & World Report).  [Student loan debt is nearly $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.]( “Student loan debt is nearly $620 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.“)Congratulations to the Class of 2016, who are currently paying an average of $37,172 of student loan debt. (That means an average student
loan monthly payment is about $351.)

Before your high school student gets too far down the road with their heart set on an expensive private college, you may need to discuss how much you’ve saved for them. If you haven’t saved enough, it’s time to come clean with them and set realistic expectations. Today, the [average annual cost]( “average annual cost”) of a four-year private college is $49,320 while public colleges cost approximately $9,650 for in-state residents and $24,930 for out-of-state residents.

Investigate The [National Student Loan Data System]( “National Student Loan Data System”) (NSLDAS)

The NSLDAS is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid.  They receive information from schools and other education programs and provide a centralized view of [Title IV loans]( “Title IV loans”) and grants. As such, if you are a recipient, you can access data and make inquiries.  Your child can glance at their data and make sure that it is correct.  They must keep the data up to date.  If they have moved, for instance, it is essential to make sure that NSLDAS is notified.  If your grad thinks that they are going to have a problem paying back their loans, they should communicate any issues immediately.

Find Out What Happens If You Are Going Back to School, Unemployed, Or Experiencing Hardship

Forbearance on student loans can be granted, mainly if your child is going back to school, unemployed, or having a hard time paying. In the case of enrolling for an advanced degree, you can request a deferment on student loans.

In the case of unemployment, borrowers may also be granted temporary forbearance on student loan debt.  That said, they would have to qualify for an income-based repayment plan.  There is also a pay-as-you-earn-plan, and this too can cap loan repayments if they are eligible. Other programs do exist, but your child would have to inquire about not only the plans but their qualifications to enter such programs.  They can also investigate federal loan repayment plans by visiting the following website: []( “”).

**Develop A Repayment Plan**

Once your child graduates, it is time to introduce them to the “real world.” They’ll need to start budgeting for these monthly payments or risk default.

And, while on the topic of default, student loans may not go to a collection agency, but instead be worked out directly with the provider.There are loan consolidation and loan rehabilitation programs provided by [Federal Student Aid]( “Federal Student Aid”). The bad news is that this default may show up on their credit report.

Provide your child a meaningful gift this season and make time to plan for student loan debt. Now there’s a gift that will keep on giving. I am a family financial expert for over 35 years and an author of 27 books with a *New York Times* #1 Best-Seller. I invite you to [visit my website]( “visit my website”) and ask me all of your money questions.