What happens if you're laid-off and can't come up with the money to fund your kid's college tuition? Money has this horrible, horrible advice:

If your child has an aid package and you've been laid off since it was awarded, petition the school for more help this semester; otherwise, get a PLUS loan, which costs 7.9% or 8.5% and can cover the gap above Junior's earnings.

The first part's great: If you can convince the school to give you more money, you absolutely should. But with most private college endowments taking a beating while public colleges face the specter of budget cuts, this might fall on deaf ears. It's still worth a try though!

The second part of the advice is terrible. If you're unemployed you should be looking to cut your expenses and debt, not taking on more. It's irresponsible to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt when you don't have much cash coming in. Sure, you'll get another job, but that could come at the expense of a big pay cut. Bottom line: Taking out loans when you are unemployed is stupid unless it's absolutely necessary -- and by that I mean paying for food.

What are some alternatives to the Parent Plus Loan? Your child can always take out the loans in his own name. If you're able and willing, you can help make me payments later -- but it's more prudent to put debt in the name of someone who has years to pay it off rather than in the name of people who need every penny they can get for their retirement. If your family doesn't qualify for much in the way of need-based financial aid, it might be a good idea for your child to work a few hours a week. But be careful: If you do qualify for financial aid, your child's income could lower his eligibility.

But please, do not let a financial aid counselor talk you into a Parent PLUS loan.

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