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The Right Way to Borrow for College

Oct. 27, 2014 Kiplinger

You’ve no doubt heard stories about recent college graduates with minimum-wage jobs and six-figure student loans. Or parents who can’t afford to send their children to college because they’re still paying off their own student debts.

These tales, while troubling, are the exceptions. About 40% of student loan borrowers had balances of less than $10,000 in the first quarter of 2012, according to the New York Federal Reserve. About 30% owed between $10,000 and $25,000. Only 3.7% had balances of $100,000 or more. And given the widening chasm between income earned by college graduates and those without a degree, college remains one of the best investments you’ll ever make, even if you need to borrow to earn a diploma.

The key is to do it wisely, which means borrowing as little as possible and finding loans with the best terms available. That’s what Martha and Ken Odegard of New Berlin, Wis., are trying to do. Their younger daughter, Lauren, a senior in high school, wants to attend a small private college and eventually go to medical school. “It’s been her goal forever,” Martha says.

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