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University of Minnesota Extension

Financing higher education: Helping families make informed choices

Higher education, including a college degree, can have a great impact on the financial future of students and their families. This includes:

  • higher lifetime career-earnings
  • more employment opportunities
  • higher quality of life for individuals, their families, and for society as a whole.

Yet the costs of financing that education are increasing.  Many students start their adult life with high levels of student loan debt. For some families and students, the thought of student loan debt is enough to prevent them from pursuing that goal.

How can we help students and their families invest in higher education without becoming overindebted? The program engages families to work together to plan for and achieve a common goal – affordable higher education for their children.

Financing higher education description

The program is designed as a series of six one-hour workshop modules for parents and students in middle school through high school. (See more about these.) The modules may be offered individually or as a series. They are intended to complement workshops and resources that focus specifically on Free Application for Student Aide (FAFSA) rules and regulations. To be most effective, we recommend that these workshops be used a precursor to, or in conjunction with a FAFSA workshop.

The Financing Higher Education workshop modules focus on four key areas:

  • Building the financial literacy of youth and families. Engaging the family and the student in dialogue and exercises about financial terms and financial practices teaches families how to manage their financial resources to afford higher education for their children.
  • Promoting communication within the family about available educational options, the costs associated with those options, and alternatives for financing those options. Having a shared financial goal makes it easier for families to work together and make decisions about investing in higher education.
  • Decision-making in the context of the family’s personal financial situation. Informed decision-making strengthens family resiliency by helping families understand the roles and responsibilities of each family member in achieving a shared family financial goal.
  • The value of investing in higher education. The benefits of higher education, including a college degree, are both broad and long-lasting. Families learn how education accrues to higher lifetime career-earnings, more employment opportunities, as well as a higher quality of life for individuals, their families, and for society as a whole

Each workshop focuses on a core concept in the decision-making process. This modular format makes it possible to address a wide range of topics that families need to consider before taking out student loans.

Workshop modules


To connect with this program

University of Minnesota Extension Educators are currently available to partner with organizations to offer these workshop modules. Trainings are available in English and Spanish.

Plans are also underway to develop a train-the-trainer webinar, for others to be trained on delivering these workshop modules.

To schedule a training or get more information, contact Joyce Serido (jserido@umn.edu; 612-301-9693).

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