Ask Someone Else's Mom by Susan Writer

Parents Try to Warn LW About the Realities of Exorbitant Student Loans

DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My parents helped me with my undergrad degree, paying the tuition, while I covered the room and board. I am grateful for all they did, but they’re not able to help me with the cost of my master’s, which I understand. I have always understood they would help me as much as they could and that the rest would be on me.

I’ve been accepted to UC Berkley’s postgraduate engineering program, which is a big deal for my future career prospects.

The last week or two, though, I have been getting a lot of negative comments from my parents about how the large student loans I’m going to have to take out will impact my life once I’m out of school. I understand this, but also figure that with the degree from a top school, my earnings will be commensurately higher, and I’ll manage just fine. They would prefer I go to one of the other, less costly programs to which I’ve also been accepted.

I can see they are really worried about me and I need to find ways to let them know I’m good with the way things are, and I’ll be good with what comes next. What do you think would work? --- OKAY WITH GOOD DEBT

DEAR OKAY WITH GOOD DEBT: I agree your parents’ worries are well-founded. They’re probably hearing a steady supply of stories about kids with solid degrees from top schools, crippling student loan debt, and minimum wage jobs not in the least connected to their fields of study.

It's good that you appreciate their concerns, and unless you can reassure them that you’ll come out as well as you hope you will, I can’t imagine they’ll stop worrying.

You’ll need to counter all the scary anecdotes with a strong foundation of specific potential. If they look encouraging, share statistics on the successful employment rates of graduates from your preferred program. If the school has placement and proven career guidance services, let Mom and Dad know about that too. The more solid evidence you can give them of your imminent employability after you earn your master’s, the less fearful they may be about your future ability to repay a large loan.

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