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Should your kid work in college?

A job may sound like the antidote to a dwindling 529, but it can backfire.

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By Ismat Sarah Mangla, Money Magazine staff reporter

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(Money Magazine) -- Before you suggest your son or daughter become a barista to help fill the market-size hole in his or her college fund, consider the downsides of taking on a job in school.

An American Council on Education analysis of several studies indicated that students who work more than 15 hours a week are less likely to graduate in four years, which means even more tuition to pay.

Also, "students who work too much may not be able to schedule the classes they need, and their academic performance is more likely to suffer," says Kal Chany, author of "Paying for College Without Going Broke."

So what do you do to make up the difference in tuition? Here's the best plan.

First: Make working work

Despite all the negative studies about student jobs, some research suggests that students who work a limited number of hours actually do better in school than peers who don't have a job.

Fifteen hours a week is a good maximum, advises Chany.

Keep in mind too that earning more than $4,000 a year could put a student's school and federal grant money in jeopardy.

Second: Cover the rest with loans

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.

For fall, get that Free Application for Federal Student Aid form in ASAP - you can file starting Jan. 1.

Almost all families are eligible for unsubsidized Stafford loans, says Chany. These cost 6.8%. To top of page

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