Monday, July 20, 2015

We Can't Pay for Our Son's College Tuition

For a couple of years now, my husband has been stressing about the college costs for our children, particularly our son, who will be eighteen and college-ready in 2018. We have three thousand dollars set aside for him today. We might have double that in 2018. We likely won't have much more. Should he still go to college?

Hell, yes.

There is so much information out there on the earnings comparisons between college grads and non-college grads. Nowadays, it's actually a little scary but it might be true, we are observing the rising bar of expectation: today's Masters are tomorrow's Bachelors. That is to say, for some career options, a four-year degree may not be enough.  Are we going to push our son to go for a master's?

Hell, no.

The bottom line is that our son has to cooperate with reality - and we are so blessed to have a child who understands that paying for college will not be a free-for-all. He will likely need a part-time job and summer work, and if he follows our advice, he will spend the first two years at home, going to a community college, to complete his basic graduation requirements. A loan may be in his future, too, but my own example of the "lifetime investment plan"is not a recommendation and the more he can avoid a loan, the better for him. How far he goes beyond a bachelor's degree will be up to him and HIS wallet. We are not alone in this position and we are quite comfortable with it: because it is our reality and there is no way around it.

We cannot pull out our hair or take out second mortgages for our children's futures. We both certainly wish that we had saved more, done more for our children's future than we did, but I, for one, do not, will not, allow that wistful little past "wish" to become useless guilt. It is what it is.

His educational trajectory will rely on this triage: money saved, money being earned, and goals he has set for himself. We can coach him and advise him but we can't really tell him what to do... because it will ultimately be his own money and savings he will spend.

In a way, I am NOT envious of those richer families who are able to pay for their children's college tuition... and perhaps because of this money-influence, find themselves in a struggle of wills to impose their ideas of what is important or valuable for their child to study.

Our son may come from a slightly less affluent family than others, but he is a little more free to discover his own opportunities regarding his educational goals, and he may be a little richer because of it.

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