Yup, you’ve heard it here. I won’t be paying for my son’s entire college education. Still, I would like for him to go to college and to graduate without student loan debt, but in order to pay for his college education in full, I’d have to start aggressively saving right now, and this is something I’m not willing to do.
I may set some money aside to help him, but it will probably be only a fraction of the tuition costs at that time. I may sound like a selfish parent, but let me explain.
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Other Financial Burdens
While I could budget to contribute the maximum to a 529 plan for my son, I still have student loans of my own, and my husband and I have other debts that need to be taken care of first.
In order for us to help our child, we need to help ourselves first
While I’m working hard to pay all of my student loans off by the end of next year, there are other financial goals I’d like to start working toward sooner rather than later, like investing for retirement and saving for a down payment on a home.
While I realize having my son when I was young set me out at a financial disadvantage, I have to make the best out of my situation. There is another huge reason I don’t want to fund my son’s college education entirely:
Some Young Adults Don’t Appreciate College
Having just graduated from college a few years ago, I fondly remember a large number of my peers who didn’t really take the experience seriously and weren’t particularly grateful for it. I saw many students drop classes in the middle of the semester when they knew they couldn’t get a refund – or worse, fail a class and retake it, thus paying twice for the same number of credits.
I’ve also seen classmates party too much and lose their scholarships, refuse to apply for any available scholarships, miss the financial aid deadline, hardly show up for class, or do a number of things that hinted to me that they might not have paid for their college education.
Experience has taught me that when you pay for something out of your own pocket with your own hard earned money, you cherish it and appreciate it more.
My opinion is supported by a national study from a University of California professor who found that the students whose parents pay for their education tend do worse than others academically. Don’t get me wrong, there are many students who are grateful to receive funding for their education, even while some aren’t.
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I took my college education very seriously, and even though my parents didn’t help me out financially, I made the best of whatever aid I received. I want my son to develop a similar work ethic and outlook on higher education. But I feel like there’s no better way for him to learn this valuable characteristic than for him to pay for at least part of his college education.
Oh, and Did I Mention How Expensive College Will Be?
It’s no secret that college is super expensive and the average national student loan debt is remarkably high. But attempting to give my son a free ride to college won’t help make either of these issues any better. I say “attempting” because, back in 2012, an article in CNBC.com predicted that, by 2030, the annual cost would be six figures or more to send your child to a private college, and around $50,000 to send him a public state university.
The current estimate of the cost of raising a child to age 18 is $245,000—which excludes the cost of college.
Realistically, I don’t know how many people can afford to save and invest enough to reach those numbers and also meet their own financial goals unless they start before they even have children.
What I Plan to Do Instead
I am not going to beat myself up for not being able to meet some generalized standard laid out by society. Honestly, I don’t owe my child a college education. I helped give him life, and I would like to see him given as many opportunities as possible to get ahead. I do recognize the value of a college education. So here’s what I will do:
- Save up a small amount (not yet determined) to help him cover the costs of textbooks during his first few years of school, and perhaps supplement some of his other expenses like food, clothes, etc.
- Help him find an affordable school and explore all his education options.
- Let him live with me rent-free during his first few years of school, if he decided to go to a community college to save money.
- Educate him on the risks and disadvantages of student loans before college, so that we can develop a plan to avoid them early enough.
- Help him find a part-time job to help save for college expenses.
- Help him search and apply for scholarships he qualifies for.
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I would much rather teach him to research and analyze all of his options, save money, and work hard for what he wants in life, rather than throw a ton of money at him and tell him to run off and have fun for four years.