Weekend Reading: Sending Your Kids to College

Paying for College / Friday, September 28th, 2012

I’ve written a lot about our experience of paying for college for our daughter. She’s just begun her junior year and I think we just about have it figured out.

But my son is entering his junior year of high school, so we’re starting from scratch with college visits, ACT testing, and the rest. And because his wish list includes at least one college that’s quite a bit more expensive than the option his sister chose, I’m doubling down on researching college costs.

I want to share with you some of the interesting info I’ve found on that topic, but first, here are the college topics that my daughter, Lindsey (a journalism major), and I have been covering recently:

  • We also got the opportunity to take our mother/daughter writing offline with a piece in NextStepU magazine: Making the Most of a College Fair. NextStepU is a publication aimed at high school students and, while it’s distributed mostly through high schools, you can read a lot of their helpful content online.

Now onto the rest:

  • Julie Halpert of The Fiscal Times writes about College Costs Shocker: Parents Could Pay an Extra $28k. Much information about college costs focuses on tuition, room & board, and books, but there are lots of other fees and expenses that can go along with paying for college and Julie outlines them here. I knew about this article because Julie interviewed me for it and used some of our info in the opening paragraph.
  • Julie followed that article up with another excellent piece: How Much College Do You Owe Your Kids? This can be a tough question for parents who are trying to balance providing a college education for their kids with planning for retirement and other financial priorities.
  • While you’re there, you can check out Forbes’ list of the Top 650 colleges. Forbes contends their list is unique because it is based on “educational outcomes, not reputations”. They base their findings on the following:
    1. Post graduate success
    2. Student satisfaction
    3. Debt
    4. Four-year graduation rate
    5. Competitive awards

Rankings like these should always be taken with at least a small grain of salt, but they’re still fun to check out. I dare you not to look and see where your alma mater rates (mine comes in at #308).

Do your kids have college in their futures? Have you decided how to pay for it yet? 

5 Replies to “Weekend Reading: Sending Your Kids to College”

  1. I am always a little surprised that we americans ask ourselves how much we owe our kids. Sorry but i feel we owe everything we can give. We brought them into thus world and its unethical to do otherwise…too many americans having babies, getting divorced and running off to the next marriage in my opinion. I know you are in a different space honestly and i love your blog but bottom line kids first always. We White americans could learn from other cultures that are far more family oriented. By the way…retirement was made up in the post war 40s and 50s by housing builders to sell homes on golf courses. Its not a mandate….i could show you stats. ;). Our economy needs people to keep working or we head in the direction of other countries that are already experiencing the age wave.

    1. Interesting comments, Krista. I agree with you that a “golf course retirement” may not be a necessity, but most people will reach the point where they want or need (due to health issues) to quit working, especially as our life expectancies are so much longer than they once were.

      I completely agree that kids come first, but some people just aren’t in a position to foot the whole bill for their kids’ college educations, especially with costs rising so quickly.

      I appreciate you sharing your opinion. You’re making me think a lot on this Friday afternoon! :)

  2. My son is in his second year of college. He paid for his first semester, and I paid for his second at the university. He switched to community college for this year so I’m just paying for it. It’s a whole lot cheaper!

  3. Community college is a great way to save money and not everyone needs to attend an Ivy League caliber of college. As for parents vs. adult “children” paying for school, if parents can afford it, great. If not, there’s nothing wrong with young adults paying as long as parents sit them down and explain how loans work and other options for funding college. In some cases, it might be better for students to understand how much things cost. They’re on their way to becoming adults themselves and need a strong financial background. ;)

  4. Your article hit home since we have one son in college and another in high school right behind him. Our deal with our kids is 4 years of tuition (not necessarily the rest of it) at an in-state school, which comes to roughly $32-36K(well, right now) for four years. We also agreed to pay the first couple years’ room and board in the dormitory for our older son because we felt that it was a valuable life experience, and because we are living overseas right now. He will be expected to either foot his own bill for room and board or else move back home once we repatriate. The expectation is that the child earns money during the summer and with a part time job during school or else takes out student loans to pay rent/books/board/gas or he has the option of living at home and commuting to a nearby state U campus. While we did not save money for their college, we did ensure that we have zero debt(except our mortgage), and we did plan that – after staying home with my kids for 10 years – I would return to work in the year or so before Son#1 started school, so in a sense, I’m the college plan. Since we’d been living on one salary for so long, the 2nd income from my work has covered school so far without a problem. The boys know that,if they want to attend a private or out-of-state Uni, they will have to take out student loans or get scholarships to make up the difference. This has been a tactic that has worked for us as middle-class, college-educated professionals, although it is certainly not the solution for everyone. While I don’t think I necessarily ‘owe’ my children a college education, I do want to give them the best possible start in life that I can responsibly give them without finding myself destitute on their doorsteps in my old age. I also don’t think that starting out your working life with some student loan debt is a bad idea. I taught university undergraduates for a number of years, and there was often a marked difference in the attitudes displayed between students who were paying their own way through school and students who were there on the full ride from Mum and Dad. As my husband says, “Sometimes you need to have a little skin in the game.”

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