During the divorce process, do not neglect to address college expenses for your children. Once a couple parts ways, potential complications may surface on this matter.
How will tuition, room and board and fees be paid? And who will pay for them? Even though college may be years away for the pre-school-aged children of a divorcing couple, the topic of college expenses should be a part of these negotiations.
Soaring college costs
As we know, college costs continue to climb. By the time a 10-year-old child reaches college age in 2031, annual costs may be as high as $55,000.
According to the Education Data Initiative, the current average cost to attend an in-state school is nearly $26,000 per year. That adds up to a four-year cost of nearly $103,000. (The annual in-state costs at Maryland’s public universities are $22,380 for tuition, fees and room and board.)
And expect the costs of private schools to be more than double that amount.
Amount each parent pays, pursuing financial aid
With these figures in mind, you understand that negotiations on college costs are critical for divorcing couples. Consider having in-depth discussions on the following matters:
- What college to attend: Many factors come into play. Perhaps one parent wants the child to attend a prestigious, private and expensive school, while the other parent is fine with having the child attend his or her alma mater – an in-state public school. Visit campuses, review the school’s programs and always consider how much it will cost.
- The amount each parent pays: An agreement must take place regarding each parent’s share of college expenses. Perhaps the expenses get evenly divided, or maybe the amount is based on the income of each parent.
- The pursuit of financial assistance: Each parent should investigate this and share their knowledge. With rising college costs, it is important to review options such as financial aid, student loans and scholarships.
- College savings account: If you were on top of things, you likely already opened a 529 college savings account when your child was an infant and made regular contributions. If you have not, it may be a good idea to do so. A good option is for each parent to open such an account.
You and your soon-to-be former spouse understand the importance of education, and you want to make sure your child attends the right school that will lead to a solid career.
Get the agreement in writing
Many aspects of a person’s life become complicated after divorce. When it comes to child-related matters, though, try to keep them uncomplicated. You want what is best for your child, and that may mean having good education. When you come to an agreement on college costs, make sure to get it down in writing. A verbal agreement will not suffice.