3 Story Angles for Graduation Season

by April 25, 2018

As of September 30, 2017, outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. had grown to $1.36 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (Photo by Pixabay via Pexels, CCO)

As high school and college students across the country don cap and gown and prepare for graduation, now’s a good time to plan your money coverage related to education topics and life after graduation.

Here’s a look at money story angles to consider.

Saving for college

Graduation time is a good reminder to families of younger kids that it’s important to start saving early. Financial experts make a big push around 529 college savings plans on May 29 (also called 5.29 day).

Talk to local fee-only financial planners (which you can locate through Garrett Planning Network, XY Planning Network or the National Association for Personal Financial Advisors) about who should set up a 529, how it works, how to choose a plan (529s are state-sponsored and there may be tax incentives for investing in your state’s plan but you’re not limited to that state) and what counts as an eligible educational expense. Also find out what alternative savings vehicles exist for children who may not attend a traditional college.

Student loans

Graduates typically have a six-month grace period before they have to start repaying loans but interest may accrue during those six months. Amidst the excitement of graduation parties and commencement addresses, consider a primer on what new grads need to know about their student loans (for instance, they may not know that missed payments can damage their credit report).

The Federal Student Aid website has lots of information on federal loans, and you could consider talking to local financial aid officers and financial planners. Also talk to locals who are currently paying off loans to find out what they wish they’d known or if they’ve been impacted by the recent controversies over student loan forgiveness.

Some borrowers are so relieved to be done with loans that they now throw student loan pay-off parties to celebrate. Is anyone in your area doing that and if so, what does theirs entail?

Alternatives to 4-year degrees

While Bachelors degrees at traditional colleges or universities are popular, they’re not the only road to success. Readers (and families of readers) who’ve completed high school and aren’t sure what’s next might benefit from stories that explore other options in the local area.

Does your city or county have a coding academy or perhaps a community college with a strong vocational focus? Coding academies are relatively new but at least one website (Course Report) lets users browse review of different programs. How much do these programs cost and how many students get placed in jobs after completion? Are these programs eligible for federal student aid and if not, how do students pay for them?