How to save for college while paying off your own student loans

Michele Findeis, a mother of four, is helping her three oldest children pay for their undergraduate degrees—in addition to repaying her own student debt. “In total, the four of us currently have $297,500 in student loan debt, and my son is only a freshman in high school," Findeis said.

According to our parent student loan survey, many parents are in similar situations. Among parents who borrowed for a child's college education, 55% reported that their student debt totaled $40,000 or more.

As a parent with your own student debt, your loans pose their own challenges. Your student loan payments eat into your monthly cash flow and leave less room in your budget for college costs.

Dealing with both money priorities can feel overwhelming, but learning and taking action can make a difference. Here's a look at the reality of managing your student debt while figuring out how to help your child save or pay for college, along with some strategies for dealing with both.

How to save or pay for college when you have student debt

1. Adjust federal student loan payments

If your debt is in the form of federal student loans, you likely can adjust your payments and free up cash each month to cover educational expenses.

You could switch to an income-driven repayment plan, an Extended Repayment Plan or a Graduated Repayment Plan to make your monthly payments more manageable.

2. Refinance high-interest or private student loans

You also have the option to lower your monthly payments for private student loans, but the process is different.

Instead of changing your repayment plan, you'll need to refinance your private student loans. That'll give you the chance to create a new loan with new terms — and lower monthly payments.

Take a close look at refinancing both federal and private student loans that carry high- interest rates. With good credit and a higher income (usually $50,00 to $60,000 or more), you can qualify for great rates on your refinanced student loan.

Refinancing could lower your interest charges, which means more of your money could go toward paying off your student debt or finding out how to help your child pay for college.

Findeis, for example, took advantage of student loan refinancing to get a 4.00% interest rate on her debt. She also chose a longer repayment period, which helped lower her student loan payments to just $225 per month.

3. Make extra payments on your student loans

Findeis is also making $200 in extra student loan payments each month. That's “with the intention of making my final loan payment when my son graduates from high school in June 2021, 19 years after I graduated from college," she said.

By making those extra payments, Findeis will free up $425 per month. See if you have low-balance student loans you could knock out before your child is in college. You'll free up the payment to increase your monthly cash flow and avoid interest charges.

4. Choose an affordable college

As a parent, you play a huge role in guiding your child to make wise college decisions, and that starts with discussing the financial realities of attending college and repaying student debt.

By encouraging your child to choose an affordable college that matches their academic and career goals, you can greatly limit both your student debt and your need to take out parent student loans.

Highlight the great value of attending an in-state public college (even better if they can live with you rent-free). You might even suggest attending a community college for the first two years, which saves students $11,377 on average.

5. Get free college funds or credits

One of the best ways to pay for college is to get someone else to do it. Parents and students should devote time and energy to finding free money for college:

  • Complete and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.This is your ticket to qualifying for federal student aid such as Pell Grants and federal student loans. Many colleges also use FAFSA information to evaluate students for scholarships and other forms of assistance.
  • Find and apply for as many scholarships as possible. Many organizations, including Student Loan Hero, offer scholarships to help you pay for college.
  • Look for ways to earn free or cheap college credits. “Knowing what I know now, I am encouraging [my son] to take at least four AP classes during high school so he has one semester of credits complete before he graduates," Findeis said. You also can look into dual-enrollment programs for your child or have them earn credits through the College-Level Examination Program.

6. Shop for the best student loans

Ultimately, there probably will be some college costs you can't cover with cash, savings, or scholarships. As you look for additional ways to pay for college, student loans can fill the gap.

“Shop for the best interest rate!" Findeis advised. “One of my daughters took a loan as a freshman for $30,000, and the balance to repay was over $40,000 when she graduated because the interest rate is 12.125%."

Compare all forms of student loans available to you to find the most cost-effective ways to pay for college. Borrow through the most affordable options first, which often are Direct Subsidized Loans or Direct Unsubsidized Loans with interest rates of 4.45% for the 2017-18 academic school year.

If Direct Loans won't cover everything, start comparing federal Parent PLUS Loans to private student loans.

Also, consider cosigning a private student loan with your child or taking out private parent student loans in your name. If you're well-qualified, you often can get rate offers that beat the costs of Parent PLUS Loans.

“Do what you can to not allow interest to accrue," Findeis suggested. “Make interest payments while your child is in school and try to pay small loans off completely."

Originally posted on Student Loan Hero.

You might also like:

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this


When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.

Keep reading Show less

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play