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Monday, October 4, 2010

Who Pays for that Higher Education?






by Jen AlLee


My son is a senior in high school, which means that this year is crucial. This is the year he applies to colleges. This is the year that sets up the remainder of his education and the beginning of his future career. In short, this year is the foundation for the rest of his life.

But no pressure, right?

One of the things I've stressed with my son as part of his decision making process is tuition. I'd love to be able to tell him to pick the college of his dreams and money-be-darned. I wish I could tell him that his dad and I will pay for his tuition, but that's not happening,.

A lot of my friends are surprised when I tell them that we don't plan to pay for college. But to be honest, it never occurred to us. Both Marcus and I went to college. We both applied for scholarships and grants. Some we got, some we didn't. Both of us had to figure out a way to pay for the balance of our tuition, which we did, through student loans.

I'm not sure when the mindset changed from young adults paying for their own higher education to parents footing the bill indefinitely. Perhaps it's because the cost of college has risen so much. Or maybe parents feel obligated to give their children so many things, they just don't know when to stop. Whatever the reason, I'm wondering about the wisdom of it.

Don't get me wrong. I don't look down on anyone who decides to pay for their child's education. If I could do it for my son, I would (maybe). I just don't believe parents need to go deeper into debt or work themselves to a frazzle in order to get their kids through college.

Part of the college experience is learning how to take responsibility for your life. That includes figuring out how to pay for things. Beside that, I think folks appreciates something more when they have to pay for it themselves. That goes for video games, cars, and yes, college.

So, while we'll probably pay for his cell phone to make sure he keeps in touch, and we may buy him a laptop to take with him, when Billy heads off to college it's going to be to a place that he knows he's paying for. Does that make me a bad parent? I hope not.

8 comments:

  1. I don't think it makes for a bad parent at all! I had to pay for my own college education. I don't regret it though it was hard at times, and I was envious of those kids who got to do all the extracurricular stuff like traveling around the country with the drama team, while I was stuck working to pay for school, but at the same time I think I did value being there more because I had counted the cost.

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  2. I told my kids from the start they were going to college and they were paying for themselves. Thankfully, they did plan for college (I mean through high school their studies reflected that goal) and they qualified for the max in both state and federal funding. Now they are paying their loans back but managing pretty well in all their finances.

    I don't think kids are wired to take care of anything unless it is coming out of their own time or money. Personal investment is the key. I helped every way I could of course with food, apts, travel expenses, etc. If you're a bad parent, so am I. But I don't think so either!

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  3. I'm with you. I went to junior college (don't laugh) and paid my own way. I would have gone to University were it not so expensive. Even though my decision was based solely on the price tag, I'm glad I did it.

    My parents helped me pay my way by letting me live at home. At the time I was a touch resentful but looking back on how much of a snot I was - they were saints for letting me hang out with them for 3 more years.

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  4. Bex, if my son decides to go to a local college, we'd definitely let him live at home. In fact, I'd love that!

    Lisa, I remember being in college and scrounging around for change so I could walk to the store and buy a bag of M&Ms! It was tough, but it does cultivate character :+}

    Deb, like your kids, my son has always known that paying for college is his own responsibility. Thankfully, he's a good student and has kept up a high GPA, so he's in a good place when it comes to grants and scholarships. We'll see what God does!

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  5. My husband and I both paid for our own educations, although I had substantial scholarships. We always told the kids to work hard and get as many scholarships as they could. Financial expert Dave Ramsey tells parents not to pay for college. So no, Jen, you are definitely not a bad parent.

    On the other hand, I felt challenged recently to at least consider the possibility of helping with college. We're only two years behind you with child #1 in 10th grade. Ultimately, I want my kids to go to the schools God is calling them to, and if that requires some sacrifice on everyone's parts, then I think it will be worth it.

    Of course, middle child is actually thinking of a military career and letting Uncle Sam pay for college. He has it all figured out. Not a bad plan.

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  6. Intriguing conversation that will definitely look different to each family. My friend's son just left for his freshman year of college. He was a great student and ended up getting a full ride scholarship to his #2 choice school. It was very exciting!

    Ah, the stuff I have coming up in a few years...

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  7. Brave topic!
    We have two in college (away) and two seniors who are enrolled at the community college and home school...
    I have no idea how it's all going to go. But I totally admire those who have a plan!

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  8. The fun starts, Jen!

    Our daughter started at a private college this year--yeah, bucks! We're paying some, but she worked hard in high school and earned quite a bit in scholarship money. So I consider that part of her tuition payment. She'll also owe a portion of what won't be covered and we'll pick up the rest.

    The hardest time she's having is not being allowed to take the car to college and being "stuck" on campus. :-)

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