March 21, 2018
- College costs are steep and rising, and there are several compelling arguments for declining to foot the bill for your child's education.
- It can help your child to understand the value of money and build a healthy relationship with it early on.
- There are ways to encourage a college education without paying for tuition, such as supporting your child's high-school education and researching scholarships.
Let's get one thing straight: I am 100% pro-college.
If a college education helps you get to where you want to be professionally and if you can afford it, then you go ahead and earn that college degree! I spent six years in college and graduate school and benefitted hugely from both experiences. So I'd love to see my son succeed in higher education.
But the price tag for that education ... well, that's going to be on him. Here are four reasons I'm not paying for my kid's college costs:
1. I'm making sure our family is financially healthy
Being able to pay some or all of your child's college education is a luxury.
Your kid doesn't need to go to a four-year college at 18 to survive, and you don't need to cover the bill. Besides, there's no point in putting away college money if it forces you into debt or sets you up for a precarious financial future.
First and foremost, my family is committed to addressing our financial needs before shelling out for the wants. For most people, that means covering your basic expenses, paying down debt, and saving for retirement. (After all, you can get loans for college, but no one's lending you money to cover the costs of even a bare-bones retirement.)
2. I'm supporting his pre-college education 100%
My husband and I are socking away cash for a high-quality K-12 education. We've been funding our son's Coverdell ESA since his birth. Plus, with the new tax law, we're able to contribute to a 529 plan that will finance his high school years.
Our ultimate goal is to use our financial investment to provide an education that will get him ready for college and position him competitively for money-saving scholarships, grants, and aid. We'll be looking for a high school that offers a breadth of college preparatory classes, a strong core curriculum, and tons of electives that get students ready for their future majors and make them attractive college applicants.
We're also emotionally invested in our son's education. We prioritize everyday learning — experiences like reading together and answering those one million "why" questions. We solve math problems for fun, visit historic sites and museums, and actively involve ourselves in his schoolwork.
3. I'm psyched to help him slash that tuition bill
Of course, I don't want my son to face crippling debt out of school. But there's no rule that says my kid has to pay full price or go to the most expensive school.
In fact, there are plenty of ways to reduce that big bill dramatically. And I'll be wading through that process with my son when the time comes.
For instance, I plan to ...
- Pay for high school Advanced Placement classes that translate to college credits.
- Cover the costs for SAT prep books and courses.
- Foot the bill for college visits.
- Help him track down and apply for scholarships and aid.
- Fill out the FAFSA and provide all necessary financial information.
- Guide him in finding creative ways to pay for college — locating lesser-known scholarships, applying for part-time work, considering colleges with lower costs or special savings programs, and looking for job opportunities that offer college tuition reimbursement.
4. I'm giving him an invaluable financial education
Some kids face a rude awakening the day they graduate college.
After enjoying a lifestyle fully funded by Mom and Dad, they're suddenly forced to do some serious adulting — succeeding in a job, paying for all their expenses, and managing their money wisely.
By having my son cover his own college costs, I hope to provide him with a bridge into adulthood. While still living at home in high school, he'll have to start planning his expenses for college and beyond. Specifically, he'll have to figure out how much money he can reasonably expect to make out of college, how much he can put toward loan payments, and what college he can ultimately afford.
To get him to that point, my husband and I are infusing our kid's childhood with the principles of smart money management. That starts off with explaining the basics of what money is, how you get it, and what you need vs. want to buy with it. Later on, our purposeful instruction will involve the intricacies of creating a viable budget, managing savings and investments, understanding loans, and — of course — thinking ahead to college.
As a young adult, I put myself through six years of college and graduate school. The experience certainly came with its challenges and sacrifices, but overcoming those obstacles gave me a sense of tremendous accomplishment.
It's my dream that my child will embrace his pursuit of a college education. And I hope that he'll value that process and the character he builds along the way.