Paying for College: Round 2

by Julie on January 23, 2014 · 4 comments

In last week’s 2014 update, I mentioned the fact that my son – our youngest – is currently a senior in high school and will be attending college next fall. I want to share with you what we think that will look like, financially speaking, but first a quick bit of background:

My daughter – who will be graduating from college in May – attended our in-state flagship university and covered a large part of the cost of attendance with scholarships. In fact for this, her last semester, the school put $568 back in our account (last semester it was $168). Essentially, after all her scholarships were totaled, she was being paid to go to school this year. So very proud of her.

Of course we still have the cost of room and board, books, sorority, etc. and I’ll update all of those numbers for you at the end of the school year, just as I did with year 1, year 2, year 3, and study abroad.

It looks like my son, on the other hand, will be taking a different path for college in the form of a smaller, private university one state over. Nothing has been decided for sure, but it appears likely enough to have me crunching numbers and seeing where we stand.

The big question of course is will he be able to graduate from college without debt, as his sister has done?

The answer? Maybe.

I’m hedging my answer because this school will be quite a bit more expensive than the in-state school. And there are still some unknowns because the final scholarship numbers aren’t in. But we also have some things going for us that we didn’t have four years ago when my daughter was starting college. Namely:

  • We have more saved. At this point we have a lot more saved than we did at this time four years ago (and it wasn’t made smaller by the 2008 crash either). That savings in hand amounts to about a year’s worth of expenses at this particular college.
  • We’re still saving each month. What we lacked in early planning for college, we’re making up for with focus down the stretch. We’re putting away all of my bookkeeping income and blogging income each month, and even though the individual amounts aren’t large, we’ve been consistent in saving them and they do add up. Combine that with the year of expenses we have in hand, and six months or so to go before we start paying for college, and we’ve got a pretty good head start at staying ahead of the costs, at least for a while.
  • Our expenses are lower. In the last four years we’ve paid off quite a bit of debt, which has lowered our monthly outgo in the form of payments. That will serve us well as we pay for these next four years of college.
  • Our expenses will continue to drop as Grant starts college. Because of our excellent family planning (just kidding, it was dumb luck) our kids won’t be in college at the same time. So as our daughter graduates and hopefully finds a job, she’ll be off our payroll so to speak. In addition, next year will mark the first time in 17 years that we won’t have parochial school tuition and these last eight years of high school tuition have been especially steep. We’ll be able to redirect those amounts to college costs. (And as a preview of coming attractions, we plan to redirect all college expenses to extra retirement savings when these next four years are up.)

So that’s the plan for paying for college, round 2. Things will start to become even more clear in the coming months when a final, final decision is made and the cost of attendance is more nailed down. In the meantime, we’ll keep saving.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon January 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

College is crazy expensive especially for private school. You are lucky that you are only paying for one college tuition at a time. My daughter starts August, 2014, and my son will start August, 2015. 3 years of double tuition. Holy moly.
On top of that, my daughter will likely be engaged by this Spring which means a Spring 2015 wedding.
It looks like I may be dusting off my resume and looking for a full time job. My son is the wildcard, however. He’s VERY interested in ROTC and the Naval Academy and is hoping for a scholarship. I have mixed emotions about this, obviously, but if he indeed does get a full ride through college, well, I can breathe a financial sigh of relief. Otherwise starting January, 2015, I will have to put away $2500 a month to keep up with two college tuitions.
(I bet you are feeling a little relief now, right?)
Keep me posted. You can e-mail me so we can commiserate our lack of upcoming vacations…:)!

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Julie January 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Oh, wow, Sharon. Two college tuitions and a wedding? I am feeling some relief, but congrats to your daughter. I understand your mixed feelings about the military component, but if that’s what he really wants to do at least you’ll have the advantage of having college paid for. Yes, we’ll have to cyber-commiserate. ;)

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Jon@2-copper-coins.com February 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Julie, I wanted to ask you a philosophical question after reading this post. Do you see paying for college as one of your responsibilities as a parent? By that I mean do you see it as your responsibility to ensure that your kids graduate from college debt free? My parents gave me tremendous support through school but as my wife and I think about becoming parents we are trying to determine what our role should be in paying for our future kids education. What are your thoughts?

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Marvin February 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Kids are very expensive, thank you for showing us what we will be facing in years down the road. At the moment we are currently paying $500/week for daycare (and that’s part time), but we plan to take our daughter out of daycare and engage her in other activities.

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