Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paying for College: The Reality is Hitting Me Now

My oldest son will be 15 in February.  I am often bombarded by fellow parents with questions about saving for college.  It is a daunting thought considering the staggering tuition amounts weighing heavily on parents' minds.  When my son was first born, we started to put away money towards a college fund.  After my husband was laid off twice in the past 5 years, we were grateful to have that extra money to dip into to keep us afloat.  That college fund is a thing of memory right now.  When thinking about funding college through loans, we have to keep in mind that we have three other kids following that path one on top of each other.  It should be an interesting juggling of resources when that first tuition bill kicks in.  I'm sure we'll figure out some kind of plan.

Here in New York, we have many good college/university options for commuters.  The additional cost of boarding is definitely something we can't add to the bill.  Unless they get a huge scholarship, my kids will probably have to be commuting college students.  Having been a commuting college student, I know firsthand that there are many benefits to commuting.  You don't really miss out on the college experience because you can still visit with friends on campus and go to parties.  As a commuter, you also get the opportunity to take a break from campus life and relax at home without too much interruption.  I also worked during my college years.  I think that I gained some essential time management skills juggling college, work, social life, and home responsibilities.  It was a maturing experience in many ways.  I had responsibilities and didn't really have time to goof off too much. You all know me...I managed to find plenty of time to be silly with my friends.  I couldn't live without those impromptu karaoke moments with friends.  (Someday that karaoke vlog will come...)

I have spoken to my kids about the commuting likelihood.  They seem okay with the idea. My oldest son has most of my downstairs anyway.  I tell him that his space is like a mini bachelor pad. He just has to deal with me coming down to do laundry once in a while.  Bonding time with Mom!

Most of their friends will probably dorm.  I hope that my kids don't feel like they are missing out on something essential  for their college experience.  When it comes to the money, there is no way we could make dorming work.  Maybe a car will be a nice incentive for them when the commuting begins.

I know that many of you have younger children, but I'm curious to hear everyone's opinion about the whole college/university selection process.  What is your take on the pros and cons of dorming or not?  Since I tend to be one of those protective moms (big surprise!), I'm kind of happy to have even my bigger kids come home and crash in their bedrooms.  They will define their independence as commuting students day to day. I think it will all work out. 

Another question: Are you worried about college costs too?  I'm sure you are.  Do you have a plan?  I guess you can tell that this will be a big worry for my husband and I over the next ten years or so.  Gulp! Did I say 10 years??  Thanks for your input.

Enjoy your Thursday!

14 comments:

Gerri said...

I know exactly what you are going through right now. My husband and I never made enough money to put away for college...we were just lucky to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. thank goodness things were better for us by the time our oldest was college age but money was still tight and we had no savings. As college time approached for our oldest we faced the same dilemmas you are facing. Her heart was set on a college in CA but that was just not doable. We settled on an in-state university about 200 miles north of us in the beautiful high country of AZ. It made her feel like she was away from home but she was close enough to get to in a couple of hours if we needed to. It was a good fit for all of us. She did live in the dorm, and yes it was expensive, but I really feel it was worth it. Living away from home and taking care of yourself for the first time...great life experience. Plus, living in the dorm she created life long friendships. I'm a big advocate of dorm life...not apartment style dorms but the old fashioned dorms where you actually share a bathroom with 40 people. Nothing like that to put life into perspective. After all was said and done...we refinanced our house to be able to keep her there for three years. The forth year she financed through a student loan. She had a tuition deferment which helped out a lot. I don't regret one cent we spent. That being said...I also had a daughter who went to community college and that worked out fine too. I realize that the university/dorm experience is just not possible for everyone or is it right for everyone. When it comes right down to it...the most important thing is, are they getting a good education. That is where I would start. Make sure the school is a good fit for your child. There was a university much closer to home where she could have commuted but the class sizes were huge and we knew she wouldn't do very well in that type of setting. Another reason we opted for the university farther away...it was a better fit for her.

Good luck on your quest. I'll be looking forward to hearing all about it :)

Warren Baldwin said...

This is a very legitimate concern. Our youngest is a freshman this year at a Christian college 12 hours away, so she is definitely in the dorm :) But, during her junior and senior years of high school, she took AP classes (count as high school and college credit) and took some extra junior college classes. She earned enough hours to actually be a sophomore now. Those extra hours will save us about $15,000 at the university.

Most families simply cannot save enough in advance to save for the kids college costs. So, we have to borrow, they have to borrow, and pay what we can as they go through. Some families leave it all up to the kids borrow and pay; we help them out. And, we wanted them to go to a Christian college for the benefits of the atmosphere, Bible classes, etc., and that costs a bit more.

I don't have a lot of advice. We have just gutted through it, and it was tough some months (even years). Three more to go ...

BECKY said...

Hi Kelly. First of all, I'd say, Don't Worry! Because circumstances change, especially over quite a few years time. You never know what situation you, your family,or the colleges will be in when it's time for your kids to go. I'll send you an e-mail with our experience....a little later. It's just too much to type! You're obviously a great mom, too, which usually does include some "worry time", but don't let it take over! Hugs to you!

Sherri said...

I have eighteen year old twins on the college bound path right now. We homeschooled from preschool all the way through high school. The nice thing about the homeschooling community is the way many tend to like to think outside the box. With that said, I realize living outside the box is scary to most folks and they would never even consider doing what we are doing. At any rate this is what we are doing: There is a company founded by homeschoolers but open to schoolers of different persuasions ;-). It is called College Plus. The idea is to get a college degree cost effectively. They do this by having their members challenge as many college credit classes as possible. A coach walks them through this process calling them every few weeks to see how they are progressing. My sons started this in the summer of 2011 and at the end of December they each have 27 college credits from classes they have challenged by taking and passing CLEP and DSST exams. It is far less expensive doing the classes this way than enrolling in a college and taking them that way. Eventually they will have to take a few college classes to complete their degree but by that time they will only be enrolled in that college for one semester. Then they will graduate.

Like I said, it isn't for everyone, but it makes the most economical sense to us.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

This must be a worry for you Kelly, I did not have that problem here as my three children went to a State School, they passed their exams but came home every day.
Heaven knows how I would cope these days as education has gone downhill here quite considerably.
I worry for my grandchildren's future.
Yvonne.

T Rex Mom said...

I had no college fund. It was fend for myself. I managed to make it through college on scholarships and grants and end with no debt. It took a lot of hard work - some living away and some living at home - but it all worked out. I went to the school that I could afford and whomever would offer me a scholarship. The first scholarship I took was for music. I ended up transferring schools when I was awarded a full tuition scholarship for nursing.

It would be ideal to be able to send your kids to college but make them responsible for their experience, too. Have them start saving and working.

There is also ROTC - that was my back up plan.

You guys will figure it out.

Diane said...

I went to a community college for the first 2 years and it was a lot cheaper and usually the first two years are standard classes anyways. Also, you have to make sure to apply for every scholarship available. Me, my husband, and my sister all won 3 scholarships each just because hardly anyone ever applied for them and did the paperwork required. There are options out there, don't lose sleep over it. Hugs friend!!! :O)

Herb of Grace said...

(I know I never comment these days, but I read!)

We were JUST talking about this--even though our oldest is only nine. I'd really love for our kids to do two years at our local community college, while living at home. But, as J pointed out, it will largely depend on the field they're interested in and the college they hope to transfer to. We'll just have to play it by ear. But their going to have to work their booties off and get lots of scholarships-- 'cause as of now, there's no college fund...

Valerie said...

I'm past all that - and in a different country anyway - so whilst my heart goes out to you I am also heartened by the replies of Becky and Diane. Situations DO change ... and letting the kids take on some of the responsibility is good advice.

Thank you for spending time on my blogs, I loved reading your comments. Happy New Year to you and your lovely family.

Gerri said...

I'm still paying off my school loans 11 years later...my parents couldn't afford to help me at all. But I have a B.A. and M.Ed. so it is possible with loans, grants, and scholarships. Primarily, it is up to the child to make it happen. I want to help Noah, so my goal is to be a professor before Noah starts his degrees. Usually, children of professors can go to the University, where they teach, for free. :)

G said...

My son chose not to go to college, so we still have the money that was put into a CHET (higher education bonds) fund gathering interest.

We have the same thing set up for our daughter, just gathering interest since the bad economy has forced us to stop contributing to it some 3 years ago. However, my daughter is very talented as a dancer and as a figure skater, so we should be able to parlay that into something worthwhile.

Jenners said...

College costs are amazingly high. Frightening even. Add in extra living expenses for living on campus and I think it becomes out of reach. The thing is: you have to do what it best. You have multiple children and there is only so much you are going to be able to do for each of them. I think it is better to start off with less debt and get a higher education than to have the "on campus" experience. I think you can spend so much time learning to live on your own that it detracts from the learning. Either way, it will be OK.

#1Nana said...

We got our two kids through college without going into debt. Most of my salary went to pay their costs. A couple of money saving hints: Check out the options at your child's high school for earning college credit while in high school. In Oregon it is possible for a student to graduate from high school and a juniot college concurrently. College credits earned in high school are much cheaper. Every year of college knocked off in high school is one less year you have to pay for later. Most college bound kids here get the 100 and 200 level basic stuff out of the way in high school. My daughter got a job as a residence assistant her 2nd year in college so her room and board was free. Look for summer jobs with internship possibilities. Working within the field of study even in temporary positions can give them an edge for scholarships and future employment. Stay away from student loans if you can. We took out a loan only one year when we had both kids in college and only the loans that were subsidized. Once we weren't paying tuition, we worked with our son to pay it off quickly. I've opened college savings accounts for my grandchildren and make contributions to it rather than go overboard on Christmas and birthday gifts. In Oregon the contributions are tax deductable. Good luck.

Kim said...

I took out loans for all my university costs, always worked and lived in the city but off campus. The only thing I wished I'd had was some good guidance after graduating. I didn't know enough to make repaying the loans a priority. I hope that when the boys are old enough that they live at home while attending university.