Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The College Expense Debate

The expense of college is something I'm scared to even think about. But the fact that my husband and I are still paying on our school loans and will be for quite some time, as well as recently receiving our retirement statements, has had me thinking about it and discussing it lately with a few important people in my life. However, we all have a different philosophy of what's expected of our children when it comes to the expense of college.

The three of us had to all pay our own way through college, in which case we are all still paying on school loans a good ten years out of school now. We will still be paying on them for quite some time. Each of our parents did what they could to help with slipping us twenties and sometimes even fifties for those neverending living expenses as a college student or helping with car loan payments or other bills for a few months when we were struggling. We all worked from the time we were sixteen. None of us saw this as a punishment or as being unfair. So even though the three of have very similiar background experiences with what our parents did to help us with the college expenses, we differ on what we hope to do as parents ourselves.

One of us feels that we had to take care of putting ourselves through college and it taught us very valuable life lessons that prepared us for the reality of the adultworld so therefore our children will benefit from a similiar experience. They will have to take out loans, work, and just do what needs to be done to get themselves through college. Nothing in life is handed to you so why send them out into the adultworld with mom and dad's money paying their way.

Another one of us feels that we should do what we can to save for their college now as they're growing up and pay what we can afford in a monthly tuition bill when they start college, but they will be expected to work some through high school and college to help with expenses.  If all their expenses aren't covered they will have to look into what will hopefully be smaller loans than we all left college with. Their choice of college may also be limited due to money that is saved and monthly money avaliable for tuition bills. We're willing to help but with that help still comes effort on their part, as well as responsibility on picking an affordable college and an understanding of how to manage money wisely so they can make the most of the financial help they get and leave college with as little debt as possible.

The third one of us feels that we should pay for all of their college expenses to whereever they want to attend. Studying and attending classes is a full time job as it is so they won't be pressured too much to find work to help with the expenses. Starting a career and adulthood buried in school loan debt seems to defeat the purpose of getting a college degree as  they will be burdened with a couple hundred dollars a month payment for the next 10-30 years of their working years.

I feel that this is a tough question or decision. As parents we want to be able to provide for our parents but we also want them prepared for the realities of the world. We want our kids to be able to stand on their own two feet just as we have. There are many adults of my generation-some because of circumstances that were out of their control but others because of poor decision making-struggle to be able to do this. In fact as a society we're criticized because we act entitled and expect someone to bail us out when we screw up or make bad decisions. However, the cost of college is getting outrageous. I hate to pull the "it's not fair" card but as a society our education system preaches college, college, college as the path to success. I'm not sure if that success should come with a price tag in the $20,000-$80,000 price range with a couple hundred dollar a month payment for the next 10-30 year though?

What are your thoughts, philosophies on the college expense issue with your kids? What's the best way to help them find success in the adultworld? 


  1. Ang, this is a difficult decision. I feel the same way as the first example you gave. I came out of college with extreme debt. Luckily for me, by choosing to teach sped, my loans were forgiven after 5 years. I feel like my parents helped anyway they could and did take out some small student loans to help me along the way. I too worked since I was 16 and paid for all my bills (car, insurance, cell phone and even clothing). I feel like it taught me the value of a dollar and instilled good work ethic. I hope to be able to help my boys a bit but I am going to put it mostly on them. They each have a small savings account that may help a smidge for their first year of college. Life is tough, they need to appreciate what they have and how they earned it.

  2. The cost of college can\will go up more by the time our girls are ready to start. Check this out, http://www.collegecalc.org/colleges/

    Look up a college, then choose future cost estimation. Yeah looking at that I feel I won't be much help for my girls, a drop in the bucket if you will

  3. I think you should help as much as you possibly can. Don't mess up your retirement, because that will just make you a burden on your children later, but anything you have to give, I say give it. This is the way to increase your family's standard of living over the generations. If you want your children to accomplish more than you did, you have to give them more than your parents gave you. This isn't just monetary, though. It includes values and ideas. All the money in the world won't help if your child is selfish and entitled, but for this exercise I am assuming we all do a great job parenting and our kids turn out wonderfully. I paid for most of my school myself. I got a little help from my parents, a little help from scholarships, a little help from the government, and a lot of help from myself because I worked several jobs to pay the bills while I was in school. I feel like if I didn't have to work as hard to pay bills, I could have focused more on my studies and gotten further in life. I'm happy where I am, but I want my kids to have more freedom to choose their path than I did. They will learn hard work and sacrifice from watching us, their parents. They will just be able to take it to a higher level with more financial help. I know my parents gave me as much as they possibly could. It wasn't a lot, but it helped. And I know I can do more for my kids.

  4. Great post! I have 4 kids in college right now. We saved for their higher education, but they knew that what we could contribute, would not be enough. They knew it would be up to them to get scholarships, jobs and/or loans to pay for their education. All of them have worked and received some scholarship aid, but they will probably have to take out loans to complete their education. Our approach has helped our children become savers and more careful spenders... and appreciate the sacrifices you have to make in order to realize your dreams.BTW! Newest follower from Bloggy Moms.