Via Instapundit, this report from Tim Grant of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette warns parents of getting in over their heads when it comes to borrowing money for higher education.

Parents should beware of borrowing too much to pay for children’s college education

Faced with rising college costs and a shortage of savings, many parents are making difficult decisions about whether to borrow money to help fill their children’s college funding gap at a time when they themselves are approaching retirement age.

Taking out loans may be inevitable in some cases, even if parents have been putting money away and their children have received grants and scholarships. But the decision to go into debt could have ripple effects on parents’ financial security.

“Before parents borrow for college, they should look at their own financial big picture,” said Stephen Talbott, author of the e-book, “How Much Should I Borrow for College?” “They need to ask themselves how far along they are saving for their own retirement, and are they putting in enough to be comfortable when they are 75 or 80 years old?”

Although a recent study by private student loan lender Sallie Mae found parents are footing the bill for a smaller share due to more students stepping up to the plate, many parents will do whatever it takes to give their children the best head start possible — even if it means borrowing more than they should.

Borrowing programs designed to help parents raise money for their children’s education — such as PLUS loans — could potentially hurt the families they are intended to help. The loans are remarkably easy to get, yet nearly impossible to get out from under when families bite off more debt than they can chew.