In my family, it’s not a matter of “if” my kids go to college; it’s a matter of “when”. I have never allowed the possibility of my children NOT going to college into my vocabulary, intent on making sure that their future plans include college in the equation. And my daughter, at only 12, has decided that San Diego State College is where she plans to go for college. It’s a breath of relief, as there are plenty of great colleges out there that will cost more than the estimated $15,000 +/- a year it will cost for her to attend that school – most likely more, with the way college costs are rapidly rising. Her decision, I admit, has been swayed by the fact that her aunt lives in San Diego, a town we have grown to love during our annual visits there. And her hopes are to be able to bunk at my sister’s house while she studies for her future, not only a fun idea for both her aunt and her, but also as a way to keep costs down.
With several other universities costing upwards of $40K per year, it’s a wonder how many families can survive the college years, especially if they have more than one child who will be attending college at the same time. But even the “low” cost of my daughter’s 1st choice college seems daunting. You better believe that when college time comes close, DQ and I will be researching every available grant and scholarship there is to help relieve some of the costs for her to attend. The final amount, unfortunately, will lay on her shoulders – most likely in student loans. It’s not a responsibility I wish upon her, and if I could pay the full cost of her tuition I would in a heartbeat. But her brother will be entering college three years after she does, creating another search for grants, scholarships, and acceptable loans. And reality has dictated that it just doesn’t seem possible for my income to cover college costs for two kids over a combined total of 8 years or more.
And now there are reports of college costs skyrocketing. College tuition to the average 4 year school has recently risen 7.9%. And by the time many of our kids are entering the phase of searching out colleges, that number will more likely than not be even higher. To compensate, many families are taking advantage of the numerous avenues for federal aid out there, such as the Pell Grant – a grant that was given to 7.7 million students last year alone.
But alarmingly, many of these students that have completed college are still not guaranteed a well-paying job. “When you look at all college degrees, there are more than 317,000 over-educated Americans serving us our meals, more than 80,000 shaking our martinis and some 62,000 mowing our lawns.” Lauren Kelly, AlterNet.com. The sad truth is, many college graduates (17 million of them and counting, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) will not be entering the workforce any more secure than those without a college degree. They are just as fragile as the rest of us looking for work, and could still end up waiting tables or cleaning our schools – even with a PhD under their belt. This is not only dismaying regarding the reason behind going to college, it also makes it really difficult for those job-challenged students to pay $500 or more a month after they graduate in efforts to pay back student loans they have taken out.
But still, I want my kids to go to college. Call me naïve, but I believe in the power of higher education. And I want to believe that my kids will have a chance of making a life for themselves so much easier if they go to college. And so I feed talks of college into their dreams, littering our conversations about the future with things like “when you go to college”, or “this is what you will need to study in college to make your dream job come true”. And all the while, I am praying that my inability to pay for their college out of pocket will not get in the way of making that happen.
However, I’m not alone in this decision about how my children’s college will be paid for, though some parents have come to this decision through intention, raither than as a result of economics. Sally Herigstad wrote an article for Money Central on MSN.com, stating the reasons why she and her husband are NOT saving for their children’s college, including reasoning that saving for her retirement is more important since she can’t get a loan for that necessary financial obligation but her child can for college, and the fact that she believes her child’s education falls on their shoulders alone. And, as Claire Bradley stated in an article on Forbes.com, choosing your child’s college tuitions over your own retirement is risky for not just you, but for your child too. “Too often, parents put their children’s college expenses above saving for retirement–a costly mistake. The best way to ensure your child’s financial security is to make sure your retirement is taken care of, so you’re not a financial burden.”
Has your family given thought to how you will be handling college costs? Will you be paying for your child to attend, or will you be relying on your child to take out loans and pay for it themselves?