Paying for college isn't easy -- as we all know. It is a painful process. Even if families have tried to fund 529s, there's likely never enough. Especially if there are children within a year or so of each other. As one panelist says, the reality is that while it is a good exercise to look for scholarships, they are difficult to obtain unless there is serious financial need or the student can qualify as a minority. As for merit scholarships, they are scarce.
Then add the complication of divorce. Think about this situation: a single mom, who describes her salary as average, knows that legally the dad's financials must be used for the aid forms. He has indicated he might not contribute; he thinks it's optional for him to do so. So she doesn't know how she will manage with one child a sophomore, the other a junior.
One of our admissions experts says, "You’ll definitely want to speak with the financial aid offices at the schools your children decide to apply to. Having two children in college at one time often makes a big difference in the amount of financial aid you’ll receive. Unfortunately, as long as their dad is still in the picture, there is an expectation at most colleges that he contribute, too."
Her advice to parents who are negotiating divorce settlements: "Make sure college is part of the conversation."