Just Say No

I am a child of the 80s. I grew up on Happy Days, Falcon Crest, and Family Ties. In between these shows, inevitably a commercial would come on with a child being pressured into using drugs, refusing and looking into camera and saying no.

The “Just Say No” commercials were an advertising campaign used as part of the War on Drugs in the 1980s and early 1990s. The campaign stressed the true power of the word “no.” Saying “no” meant a life free from drug addiction and rising above peer-pressure to make better choices for your life.

As I think of the “Just Say No” campaign, I feel that it needs to be revitalized not for drugs but for parents whose kids rack up high student loan debts without having the majors with the starting salaries to be able to afford to pay off those debts. I understand that there are some instances where the only place to take the major is an expensive private school or where the profession your child wants to enter costs more than average like a doctor or lawyer. However, someone 18 years old has no idea the true impact of what owing $35,000, $75,000 or $100,000 in student loans means when the average starting salary is about $45,478.

Walk them through a Student Loan Repayment Calculator to show them how much they may have to pay. Work with your children to consider alternatives rather than accept that a student loan is the only way. Will your child, based on their major, have any real advantage from the more expensive school of their choice rather than a less expensive state school?

If yes, consider going online to look for scholarships. Do not take your student financial aid award as a final answer. Ask for a re-evaluation. When I was in college, I worked in the student financial aid department. I saw firsthand how the students who were the most persistent oftentimes got more financial aid.

Look for schools that offer good financial aid programs. Also consider having your child live at home to save on college expenses. Another strategy is for them to to take the basic classes at a local community college and then transfer to a four year college. That shaves off two years of expensive college expenses.

If no, evaluate the guidance on what salary would be needed to afford your child’s student loan debt. If you find that their future salary of $45,000 a year may not be able to afford their potential $80,000 in students loans, consider using the words from the War on Drugs campaign and “Just Say No.”

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