J.B. asks from Katy, TX on October 13, 2011
Who Pays for College...?
Are we as parents obligated/responsible for paying for our kids college? In a perfect world we would all have started a college fund when they were babies and at college age it would be enough to put any of them through the school of their choice.... but I digress. Let's put anyone's financial stability aside for now. I don't think it is our obligation to pay for college, should we help if we can sure, will some loans be incurred, sure. But as far as a yes/no answer, I say no. What say you...
My son DOES have scholarships already to cover part, exceptional SAT score and ACT. And this has nothing to do with my feelings toward his mom. My son knows I am here for him and have always been.
So What Happened?™
As some of you know, I put these questions out there and then give you the rest of the story. My 17 yr old and his mom called me the other day and she said "your son is enrolling in college and it will cost $$$, how much are you gonna pay?" That is when I stated my position and followed with "I will help when I can, books, care packages etc, but I will not obligate $$$ to you right now". This has caused my son to take a stance against me. He has told me it's my responsibility to pay for his college. I paid for mine (still am) and my wife paid for hers. His mother paid for hers. I'm just bothered by his 'entitlement' mindset.
C.M. answers from Washington DC on October 13, 2011
my parents paid for mine and is still putting my sister through it. All paid 100% no loans or scholarships. But, after I got married, any classes I wanted to take, then I paid for it myself, but they were just random classes to continue learning for work, nothing major. If I can, I would pay for my kids college 100% We are saving now for it, so I hope by the time they go, we are ready for it
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C.B. answers from San Francisco on October 13, 2011
I didn't go to college and neither did my daughter, but I will say that growing up my mother was always very clear that she was not paying for college (or a big fancy wedding!). I see people running up debts sufficient to buy a house to put their kids through college. I never say it, but my thought is no way. Why should I take on this huge debt that will take me the rest of my life to pay off? There are many ways for the students themselves to pay for college (scholarships, grants, etc.) and if they want the education they need to pay for it. I know a woman whose son seems to be becoming a professional student. He's earned his 4 year degree and now wants to continue going to school so he's thinking about law school. He has studied in Spain for the past 2 years - mom and dad are footing the bills. He's 23 years old now! I say, cut the apron strings and let him pay for law school if he really wants to go! No, dad, I don't think you're obligated!
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J.W. answers from St. Louis on October 13, 2011
Parents should pay what they can afford. I know parents that took out loans for more than their homes are worth so their kids could start out debt free. To me that is crazy. Now they will spend the rest of their lives paying that off.
I think parents should say going in I have x amount of money for college. If junior doesn't want debt then they need to start at community colleges and go from there knowing if they go crazy it is their dime. I have found of my kids friends the ones that had to pay if they went to an expensive school made more rational choices and did better in school.
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S.W. answers from Minneapolis on October 13, 2011
In 1969 a student could pay their college tuition by working 8 hours a week at minimum wage.... Tuition was a few hundred, YES hundred, dollars a year.
I started college in 1979. I went to a public 4-year college, my parents ended up paying about half of my tuition/room & board ($5000) and I got another $5000 in loans that I paid off over 10 years. I worked summer jobs. Fine.
BUT, The situation has changed. College no longer costs $2500 a year, like it was when I got my undergrad degree. It is now more than $2500 per CLASS. Not including room & board.
I'd be putting some money away now, if you want your kids to have the option to go to college. Because the general public, through our elected officials, have obviously decided that higher education is no longer a public good, but a family's responsibility. There's no way a high school graduate can "work their way through" college anymore. They are going to be burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in loans.
Another option to consider, and what my stepdaughter did, is to get an AA degree from a community college while living at home. Then transfering to a 4-year college to finish.
Added: I have to ask - how in the world did your son get to 17 without the three of you having this conversation?? I'm already discussing this with my daughter's father and she is 9.
I've heard many kids in divorce having this issue. Dad pays child support up to 18 then is DONE. Yes, Mom should have put a portion of that monthly money away for college, but sometimes that is not possible with the immediate bills to pay. Then Mom says - I don't have the money and dad says I'm not responsible. Then what? A job flipping burgers WILL NOT pay today's college tuition.
It is our job as parents to "launch" our kids into the world with a fighting chance. I am NOT against a college student working and contributing, both of my older ones had jobs from age 15 on. And they sure as heck are going to get good grades and get done in 4 years or less (my SD finished in 3.5 to save money), but we signed on to raise these kids, not step away before they are prepared to deal with adult life.
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L.A. answers from Austin on October 13, 2011
What had your ex and son been told all of these years about paying for college?
This is late in the game for a conversation.
I do not understand how anyone would not assume their parents would be paying unless the parents said otherwise.
Parents usually have paid for everything for their children up to this point, so unless at some point the child had been told, "BTW, I feel like since I had to pay for my college, you will also be expected to pay yours."
When our daughter was 3, we began talking about school. "You will go to kindergarten and then elementary school, then middle school, high school, then you will go to college." She announced at that time she wanted to go to college where it "snowed". I was shocked.. I assumed she would attend college right here in Austin or at least in state.. so I told her. "I would love for you to be able to go to school where it snows, but it is expensive and mommy and daddy do not have much money. You will need to study and make good grades so you can get scholarships and grants."
This was a conversation we had over and over.. At one point my mom asked about getting our daughter "an in state College fund " that was sponsored by the state. We also saved.
Yes, our daughter was an excellent student, was a National Merit Scholar and got those Scholarships and grants. We obviously have things to pay towards this.
Our daughter is now a Senior in a Private college. She will graduate as a dble major with honors. She has lived on campus all 4 years and the college is out of state. It was no surprise to her what our financial status was and what the expectation was. We do not have even enough money to be able to pay for in state college. Yes, we can help, but she knew we were not going to be ABLE to pay for very much. She worked during the summers and is very thrifty. But with her work load, there is no way she could work during the school year.
If I had the money, heck yes, I would pay for it, but with expectations and an agreement, she would have to pay for certain expenses. She would have to work and save each summer. But it would not be a surprise her senior year.. It would have been discussed for many years prior.
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T.F. answers from Dallas on October 13, 2011
I am one of the few on here who feels that it is our obligation as parents to get our daughter out of college debt free. We brought her into this world, it is our job to get her adult life set up as best we can. She is an only child by choice and we have no regrets about our plan at all.
We started her savings before she was born (she's now 16) and she should be fully funded right now if everything goes according to plan. All of the eggs are not in 1 basket, she is well diversified with her college funding. She is like us, very driven, motivated and a self starter. She has great grades in AP classes, a cheerleader and violinist.
We started shopping colleges seriously last year. We've been on college visits and tours and she has a good idea where she wants to go. She also has plans to study in Italy. She knows she has our 100% support as long as she continues to be the good citizen and student which she is. She is appreciative and she knows she has it pretty darn good around here.
We also have her as a VP of our company and she is learning the basics of running a company at this time. We don't expect her to take over our business later, it is just good experience she is getting now. We expect to sell our company within a few years because equity companies have already approached us with bids, checking out our forecasting and plans.
We also believe it is as important to have ourselves taken care of financially with our retirement and plans for when we are older so she is not out with any financial burden to care for us. Our retirement is set.
How did we do this? We are planners. We are very driven, motivated, believe in no debt, living below our means. This takes a lot of self discipline, delayed gratification, good work ethic and planning over YEARS.
We are very fortunate that we work well together as a husband wife team, have the same end goal in mind and have a niche market that does not go away when the economy is down.
That is my 2 cents and how we feel.
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M.R. answers from Phoenix on October 13, 2011
I don't care for your controlling statement of helping "when I can." What precisely does that mean? How often? How much? If you feel like it? If you don't feel like it? If he begs? If he plays his cards right? If he jumps up and down? There is a very passive-aggressive tone to that.
If he is going to commit to college, are you or are you not going to commit to helping your son? College tuition and fees have skyrocketed since the days you attended. Receiving a 'care package' won't provide much in terms really making it, unless you are a super, big care package giver.
I think if a parent is ABLE to financially help a student through college, it is then a huge gift to graduate without debt. HUGE.
If you can't, then you can't, and that is an honest conversation that should have happened well before now.
You and your new wife and your ex-wife should sit down and openly and honestly discuss what all your financial considerations can and will be over the next 4 years. Then find an affordable option and help him find funding options to bridge the gap. It might mean a junior college, or a trade school, or joining the military until he saves enough.
P.S. I put myself through university, and let me tell you, it was tough. Doable, but not fun. I had no social life. I had to drop out of my music major, as I did not have time to practice my instrument as the other kids whose parents helped them. And this was before huge student loans were available. It changed my dreams forever not having help.
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B.C. answers from Los Angeles on October 13, 2011
I have worked hard all my life until I couldn't work.
My wages were always within $50 of being able to apply for government assistance. I "saved" for my kids college by having then study and do their homework. I told each of my kids that if they wanted to go to college they could live at home for free and I would pay for room and board and help with the books and tuition if I could. It was like working a second job making sure the kids all did their homework and turned it in.
I also "saved" for my kids college by teaching them how to bargain hunt and shop wisely. They learned and some of them practrice it and some don't.
I ended up having 1 validictorian, 1 salutitorian, 5 honor role students. The other three strugged with grades like I did. All of my kids have some college. I have one child that graduated from USC and is a doctor with all kinds of student loans. All of my kids have some college. 4 have graduated or are within one semester of graduating.
If you don't "save" for your kids like I did, then you need to save the old fashioned way, with Money. You should be able to cover 20% to 25% of their college expenses, not party expenses.
ADDED. HE ia NOT entitled for you to pay for his college. If you pay for all of it, he won't appreciate it. Supplying room and board is a BIG expense. I told my kids they could live at home. If your son doesn't want to live at home for the free room and board, its his choice. He could do that at least for the first two years.
Good luck to you and yours.
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M.C. answers from Cincinnati on October 13, 2011
I view it as my obligation to put my son through college...the first four years. I am not going to commit to grad school. I did pay my own way and so did my husband. I don't want my son starting out his adult life in debt the way we did. We started saving for his college fund right after his birth. When considering if one could afford another child, I DO count College in the equation not just the basic necessities to get him through age 18. I believe that higher education is necessary for him to succeed in life. He will be earning this gift with grades though. I am not going to continue to pay for semesters if he becomes lazy and performs poorly. He will know this ahead of time (he is only 3 and I have several years to drill this point home :-) This is my belief for my son. I don't judge other parents who dont feel the same way.
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G.T. answers from Redding on October 13, 2011
I think scholarships were put in place just for that reason. It is not a parents responsibility to foot the bill for college but it IS our responsibility to ignite a fire in them that makes them want to GO to college.
ADDED-- I think they can be allowed to live at home with free food and board as long as they are in college and want to continue to follow house rules, of course that only happens if they are going to school locally.
Mine went into the military and got their educations paid for there.
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K.B. answers from Cincinnati on October 13, 2011
I think we should do whatever we can to make it easier for them to complete school, but not go broke doing it. If we are in a financial position to pay in full (which we are not currently), then that is what we will do. If living at home instead of paying room and board will help them, then they can live at home. One thing I do not agree with is going far into debt just to go to an Ivy League or expensive private school. We have many excellent state schools and I will be very disappointed if any of my kids choose to go out of state without a scholarship or financial aid of some sort.
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