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March 07, 2006


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My plan is to have enough saved for 25-50 percent of the total. If I don't have quite enough to cover half, I'll assess my own financial situation when the time comes (college is 16 years away for my son, thankfully) and either pay a bit out of pocket or take out a loan to cover some of it.

My son can pay for the other half with loans, work, etc. I do plan to start him off saving a percentage of gifts, allowance, etc when he's old enough to understand.

Because of complicated famly dynamics, my son has two different 529 accounts, plus two different UGMAs. I'm wishing now I'd gone with Coverdells instead of 529s. At some point in the future I may see if I can convert the UGMAs to college savings accounts, but while my grandmother is living (and putting his birthday money in there every year) I have to leave them where they are.

The deal my brother and I had with my parents when I was in school ten years ago was this: They would pay 2/3 tuition, I would pay 1/3 tuition and "everything else" -- books, housing/rent, food, transportation, etc.

I took 7 years to get my four year degree, lived in WA state for a year to gain residency when I transferred, worked 40 hours a week while in school ... but I made it out with zero loans. [Because of the nature of my dad's business, and the fact that at the time, your parents' income was used in the calculation for financial aid if you were under the age of 25, regardless of whether or not you were still a "dependent," most conventional aid was out of my reach, anyways.]

My brother went to a private school and is still paying off his loans.

On the other hand, he was probably able to spend much more time on his studies than I did. So, I dunno.

My husband and I have decided that we would like to pay for our kids' school outright so they don't have to work as much as I did in school, and can concentrate on their studies without loans.

We save accordingly.

Here's the deal my wife and I have agreed to...

We'll finance 100% of college expenses for an in-state public university. If the kids what to go somewhere else, they'll need to earn the right to attend through savings or, hopefully, scholarships.

I don't believe there is much value in going to a private school versus a good state school. We're lucky enough to live in Virginia and have great state-school options like UVA and William & Mary.

My wife and I haven't had children yet, but the day is coming. My thinking as of now is that we'll likely try to save enough to pay for four years at a state school, and anything above and beyond that our children will have to finance themselves (or perhaps we could dip into our budget at that time). Why will I probably not even make an effort to save for all of it?

1. I don't anticipate being able to save that much and still adequately fund retirement and other obligations. Plus, we don't yet know how many kids we'll have. We probably could save enough for two kids, but if we have three or four it gets dicey.

2. I think there's incredible value in making kids work their way through college and/or take on a little debt to finance it. I worked my butt off to get through college and I believe strongly that it helped me develop a solid work ethic and mold me into a better person. And student loans are among the best deals out there.

3. Making them pay for part of it gives them a stake in their own success. They will be more motivated to finish in four years (rather than slacking off and taking an extra semester) when they know they'll have to pay for part (or all) of it themselves.

4. I plan to not make any promises to my kids about what we'll pay for until they start to get serious about colleges. Again, it's about motivation. I don't want them to think they've got a guaranteed free ride and start to coast.

5. When the time comes to have serious discussions about college financing, I plan to lay it all out there and have my kids help me manage expenses. When I first went to college, my dad managed the financing. I helped pay, but he more or less told me what to pay, to whom, and when. But by my sophomore year, I assumed control of most of that and it helped me to make better educated decisions about my future. I took on something extra as a senior to avoid taking more in student loans, for example.

Again, this is what I think now. Who knows, if I come into a lot of money or something terrible happens to my family, all this could change.

I am in disagreement with the let the children pay for it.

My core belief is that it is the parents' primary responsibility to help their children grow and prosper in our society.

My secondary belief is that active hands on education by parents should focus on values, ethics and responsibility. A child's character cannot be developed without aggressive attention from parents.

I had to pay (75%) for the vast majority of my education at an elite private insitutation.
Paying my way and accumulating debt was an enourmous burden and a competitive disadvantage.

I disagree with those who argue that their children should pay for 1/2 or more of their schooling. If they are hard working and competitive students, they should have the opportunity to focus on their education and competing for good grades.

Let them save up for personal expenses, vacations, etc....

A large school debt is a significant burden for new graduates who should concentrate on investing as much as possible into their new retirement accounts - not paying off student loans. We all know the value lost by not saving early on. Furthermore, high student debt might disuade children from furthering their education, i.e. "how can I afford graduate school with all these college loans? (I do understand they can be deffered)"

A solid work ethic is what enables them to be admitted to a most competitive school and to succeed within it. That ethic can and will be dilluted with external work obligations.

For those unsure if their children will value their education if they do not pay for it, I recommend having their children take a year off before attending college - most likely at their own expense.

Let them work for a year as an intern in the careers they are considering or as an unskilled laborer. Both will educate them greatly and motivate them to excel in their education.

Also, a gap year might help them achieve a certain level of maturity that the entering freshman may not initially have. Think of it as a chance to explore and grow without risking grades.

Have a wonderful evening,

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