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article: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

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"

Back in the eighties and nineties, students often went to college just for the experience of going to college, and not much thought was put into what they would get out of it.

But today, the costs of college have gotten so high that this old way of thinking just doesn't make sense anymore.

"

 

http://www.savingforcollege.com/blog/the-biggest-college-planning-mistake-parents-make-850?utm_source=SFC_Intermediarynewsletter&utm_medium=SFC_Intermediarynewsletter&utm_campaign=SFC_Intermediarynewsletter_March302016

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Many of us still value the education and experience regardless of whether our kids end up using their specific degree or not.   :coolgleamA:

 

But yes, watch finances because super high student loans aren't anyone's goal.

 

Only one of my three kids would have been correct in his career future had he been required to decide it his sophomore year.  I had no idea then either.  My other two (and myself) all changed our minds (significantly) in college.  No regrets.   My college sophomore is still figuring it out, but is well on his way.  I recently talked with a colleague whose daughter figured it out in college too and is quite pleased (and poised for a job she enjoys) now, but had no clue her first couple of years of college and tried a couple of different directions first.

 

Then I'll add the usual note that college is NOT the correct path for everyone, but it is definitely a great path for many.  It's worth putting hours in investigating different schools.  I'd be really reluctant to hire a service (such as the article suggested) to do what I can do myself, but that choice is up to us all.

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So far, I make regular suggestions to my 5 year old about how awesome it would be to serve in the military, and the 12 year old's strongest post-high school career interest is in cosmetology, which IMO is perfectly reasonable and even if she goes on to college after that will give her a good fall-back trade/skill set. She is not a child I would send to college "just for the experience." With her intelligence and academic ability, she's going to need a lot of drive to succeed for mature adult reasons to do well in college, and with her health issues following her parents into the military for even one enlistment isn't going to be an option.

 

I pretty much think that unless you are wealthy (not even just at the comfortable end of the middle class), sending your child to college "just for the experience" is a bad investment.

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So far, I make regular suggestions to my 5 year old about how awesome it would be to serve in the military, and the 12 year old's strongest post-high school career interest is in cosmetology, which IMO is perfectly reasonable and even if she goes on to college after that will give her a good fall-back trade/skill set. She is not a child I would send to college "just for the experience." With her intelligence and academic ability, she's going to need a lot of drive to succeed for mature adult reasons to do well in college, and with her health issues following her parents into the military for even one enlistment isn't going to be an option.

 

I pretty much think that unless you are wealthy (not even just at the comfortable end of the middle class), sending your child to college "just for the experience" is a bad investment.

:lol:

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I'm with creekland on this. We want our DC to complete their education with at least a bachelor's. We do not care if that leads to the ultimate career.

 

Dh has a BA in English and has a job.

 

One of my three current jobs requires a degree. I'm applying to a field right now where experience not degree counts. However I do not believe my education was a waste.

 

Today there are many jobs that can be done without a degree, but employers use possession of a degree as a weeder for applicants.

 

Lack of degree can mean ceiling on promotion, even when skill is present. Every few months someone on the general board posts their own real life example of that.

 

The thing we've impressed on our DC is the importance of not incurring debt on the way to the degree. Many degrees that lead to immediate employment are not worth debt. Debt is a dead weight on life choices. A degree without debt can open up choices.

 

My ds is pursuing history with a concentration in Byzantine studies. He is happy. He gets excited to studied this stuff. He should have this chance to pursue this. It will improve him as a whole person. He called very excited about a guest lecturer--the Vatican astronomer. Ds is not Catholic and he attends a nonreligious state school. He just liked the intellectual discourse this lecturer brought. He will not get that opportunity later in life. But having the opportunity to think about all kinds of things will help him later.

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Well, I think "the college experience" is a thing.  In fact, I think it is really two things.

 

One is a kind of break-into-adulthood/social experience.  I think this is something that equally happens outside of university though it may look a little different.  I wouldn't send a child to university just to get that.

 

Then there is the experinece of being part of a community dedicated to intellectual pursuits.  But this is tricky, because plenty of kids - maybe most - who go to university never find this.  I can think, for example, of all the kids in my generation in my family - I am probably the only one who went to a university and had that kind of experience.  As well, the people who are most likely to really get something out of the experience are in many cases also going to be the ones who most look like they should be going to university anyway.

 

I would say whatever people want to get out of university, they should try and have a realistic idea of what that would look like before they go, whether they will get that where they are going, and also be aware that there is more than one way to skin a cat. 

Edited by Bluegoat
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<snip>

Then there is the experinece of being part of a community dedicated to intellectual pursuits.  But this is tricky, because plenty of kids - maybe most - who go to university never find this.  I can think, for example, of all the kids in my generation in my family - I am probably the only one who went to a university and had that kind of experience.  <snip>

 

The only people I have known who have appreciated the 'intellectual pursuits' all attended an LAC and not a large public uni.  I remember having lunches at professor's houses, book discussions over supplementary reading, attending lectures by visiting speakers, etc.  All out of interest and not class points or extra credit. In my current area, few students take advantage of the extra opportunities presented.  If it won't benefit the bottom line (their grade) it's not happening.

 

This is just my experience, though, and certainly not representative.

Edited by ScoutermominIL
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The only people I have known who have appreciated the 'intellectual pursuits' all attended an LAC and not a large public uni.  I remember having lunches at professor's houses, book discussions over supplementary reading, attending lectures by visiting speakers, etc.  All out of interest and not class points or extra credit. In my current area, few students take advantage of the extra opportunities presented.  If it won't benefit the bottom line (their grade) it's not happening.

 

This is just my experience, though and certainly not representative.

 

Yes, this is pretty much my observation as well.  I've seen a few university departments that have a similar feel, but they were almost like a liberal arts college within a university - even when they were a science department.

 

Most people I know though, whether they studies physics or history or nursing, don't seem to have that experience, and in fact in many cases don't know that it exists.

 

As far as the social experience of the university - IMO the one you get in the military is probably even more powerful and transformative.

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Well, I think "the college experience" is a thing.  In fact, I think it is really two things.

 

One is a kind of break-into-adulthood/social experience.  I think this is something that equally happens outside of university though it may look a little different.  I wouldn't send a child to university just to get that.

 

 

I'll admit that this is the #1 reason ds is in college. He needed the safe place to grow up a little more that I think the college environment provides. 

 

Do I care that he will also get a degree in 4 years (hopefully), well of course. I don't know what exactly he will do with that degree and neither does he. I hope he is able to figure that out along the way. In the mean time he does the growing up thing, and at the end he has a degree which prevents the glass ceiling effect of not having a degree.

 

BTW he has an academic scholarship that will allow him to graduate without anyone taking on any debt. 

 

Dd has definite career goals with her degree, but she will go to a (relatively) small State U and again, will graduate without debt.

 

We are not rich, but we did save. We value higher ed in our family and think it is worth the cost even without a definite plan on how it will all work out in the end.

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The only people I have known who have appreciated the 'intellectual pursuits' all attended an LAC and not a large public uni.  I remember having lunches at professor's houses, book discussions over supplementary reading, attending lectures by visiting speakers, etc.  All out of interest and not class points or extra credit. In my current area, few students take advantage of the extra opportunities presented.  If it won't benefit the bottom line (their grade) it's not happening.

 

This is just my experience, though and certainly not representative.

 

Thanks for adding that last line, so I don't get all puffed up and argumentative.  ;)

 

I did have that experience at a large public university, although I was in the liberal arts school, so probably much more likely than it would have been had I been in the business school or something.  And my pursuits were probably not as frequent or well-attended as your experiences at the LAC.  But hey, I did the best I could with what I had, and I wouldn't return it for anything.  :)  In fact, I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could!

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Thanks for adding that last line, so I don't get all puffed up and argumentative.  ;)

 

I did have that experience at a large public university, although I was in the liberal arts school, so probably much more likely than it would have been had I been in the business school or something.  And my pursuits were probably not as frequent or well-attended as your experiences at the LAC.  But hey, I did the best I could with what I had, and I wouldn't return it for anything.  :)  In fact, I'd go back in a heartbeat if I could!

 

I was about to post something similar--I also went to a large public uni, and in the liberal arts school. 

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And so much depends on the kid.

 

Dh and I believe in the importance of attending college. Our oldest two are "intellectuals" (can I put scare quotes around the scare quotes?) who loved the intellectual challenge they found at their LAC. Both went on to grad school. We expected our younger two to follow in their footsteps.

 

Well, ds2 dropped out of college after one year -- NOT due to academic reasons but due to the fact that he felt the education would not help him achieve his goals. He now has three years of job experience in the career he was hoping to get into, so we certainly can't argue that the college education was needed! He has NO regrets. (And he reads textbooks in the evening for pleasure!)

 

Sometimes even if parents think that college is essential, the kid disagrees. And sometimes the kid can be right!

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I'll admit that this is the #1 reason ds is in college. He needed the safe place to grow up a little more that I think the college environment provides. 

 

 

If you consider the college environment a 'safe place to grow up a little more', you must not be talking about the university where my son attends. We had him take a gap year to grow up a little more before enrolling so that he would be mature enough to make good decisions in an environment where bad decisions seem to prevail.

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Our local 4 year school is rated well.  It isn't the highest, but it is very good.  Tuition and fees are around  $6,500 per year.   With books, transportation, etc...we estimate $10K if DS can go there and live at home.

 

Since that is cheaper than most private Kindergartens in the area, I would say that isn't too high.  

 

 

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Our local 4 year school is rated well.  It isn't the highest, but it is very good.  Tuition and fees are around  $6,500 per year.   With books, transportation, etc...we estimate $10K if DS can go there and live at home.

 

 

These days that is way cheap for a college most are $10K or higher just for tuition.

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These days that is way cheap for a college most are $10K or higher just for tuition.

 

Acquaint yourself with your state's regional universities. It's a lot of bang for the buck. The costs Dawn is talking about are pretty much in line with my son's university. Oh, wait, Dawn and I live in the same state, I think. 

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Acquaint yourself with your state's regional universities. It's a lot of bang for the buck. The costs Dawn is talking about are pretty much in line with my son's university. Oh, wait, Dawn and I live in the same state, I think. 

ASU Tuition and Fees  In-state: $11,278

UA  Tuition In-state:                   $11,400

NAU Tuition and Fees  In-state: $10,358

 

only state colleges worth considering in AZ for us

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Obviously not every state will have the same tuition, however, I would say that AZ's tuition you have mentioned is still reasonable.

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ASU Tuition and Fees  In-state: $11,278

UA  Tuition In-state:                   $11,400

NAU Tuition and Fees  In-state: $10,358

 

only state colleges worth considering in AZ for us

 

Are you including room & board? 

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Texas State is $21,920.

Tuition is $9940.

Edited by Kinsa
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No, just tuition. And when my daughter attended in 2008-12, it was $5200/yr with fees.

 

ETA: Sorry, forgot the quote. That response was for techmom in response to the question about the Arizona schools

Edited by Barb_
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University of Texas is $26,346.

Tuition alone is $9830.

*falls down in a dead faint*

 

Tuition when I attended UT was under $2000/year.

 

Oh. My.

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*falls down in a dead faint*

 

Tuition when I attended UT was under $2000/year.

 

Oh. My.

Yeah, shocking, isn't it? I remember paying my semester tuition bill of around $1100 when I attended UT San Antonio. IIRC, it was around $75/semester hour.

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Yeah, shocking, isn't it? I remember paying my semester tuition bill of around $1100 when I attended UT San Antonio. IIRC, it was around $75/semester hour.

Just for kicks, I did an internet search, and, believe it or not, I found the tuition schedule for UTSA for 1994, which would have been my senior/graduation year. For 15 credit hours, tuition was a whopping $841.

Edited by Kinsa
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This is why I don't get parents who say, "I paid my own way through college, so my kids can do it too." I'm not so sure those parents fully comprehend what has happened to college prices since they attended.

 

Eta: I'm not talking about parents who don't have the financial means to help. I'm talking about parents who do have the means but won't help, or won't pass on their education benefits (like GI Bill), or refuse to fill out the FAFSA, etc.

Edited by Kinsa
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Acquaint yourself with your state's regional universities. It's a lot of bang for the buck. The costs Dawn is talking about are pretty much in line with my son's university. Oh, wait, Dawn and I live in the same state, I think. 

 

Sadly not in my state. Tuition and fees ALONE ranges between 11,000-20,000, not including room and board. Add another 7-10K for that. The closest would be about 1.5 hours...not really conducive to living at home. As I look at online net price calculators for private schools, a number are competitive even for a transfer student, with what our state schools would cost. We'll definitely encourage our son to apply to a variety of schools to see if they offer enough to make it comparable after he finishes at the CC. No way could we afford 4 years at those rates. We are near a border, and there is one state school in another state, about 1.5 hours away, that has OOS tuition on par with the lowest rates in my state, and might be a good option depending on what he decides to major in.  

 

This is why I don't get parents who say, "I paid my own way through college, so my kids can do it too." I'm not so sure those parents fully comprehend what has happened to college prices since they attended.

 

Yeah, it really is a LOT different. Though, we will be making our kids pay for a huge chunk of it, and they'll have to find ways to make it work, whether that means working for a gap year, or other means. 

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Aww, PA is only third (highest).  

 

Come on PA, we can win this one if we try!  We've recently won the war on highest gas taxes... highest public college prices should be easy comparatively!   :glare:

 

As stated many times before, it's been less expensive for my guys to find good private schools.  

 

YMMV

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Aww, PA is only third (highest).

 

Come on PA, we can win this one if we try! We've recently won the war on highest gas taxes... highest public college prices should be easy comparatively! :glare:

 

As stated many times before, it's been less expensive for my guys to find good private schools.

 

YMMV

I dunno. Looks like PA would have a tough time catching up with NH & VT! Holy cow they are high!

 

Twenty years ago, my sister graduated from Penn State main campus. It was chosen because it was the cheapest option for her. I doubt that would be true these days.

 

And I thought Texas was expensive. Turns out it is below the national average! Yikes!

 

Good links, MerryAtHope. TFS!

Edited by Kinsa
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Aww, PA is only third (highest).  

 

Come on PA, we can win this one if we try!  We've recently won the war on highest gas taxes... highest public college prices should be easy comparatively!   :glare:

 

As stated many times before, it's been less expensive for my guys to find good private schools.  

 

YMMV

 

If we can even get private school with room/board and tuition down to $15K, my kiddos can go and not incur any debt.  I am not sure we can do more than that unless I can indeed  get a full time job.  That will open up a lot more possibilities.

 

However, I really don't think I can beat $10K per year for tuition, fees, books, and transportation.  

 

We are thankful we live in a  state with reasonable tuition.  Although you never know what will/can happy in the next few years with rate hikes.

 

I would prepay tuition, but I need to read up on what happens should your child not attend that school or you should move to another state.

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Honestly, I don't find anything in the $10K range for tuition all that bad.  Our local school happens to be cheaper.

I wasn't trying to get into a "my tuition is more than yours" contest.  

 

I was merely stating that there are often options to the traditional -go away to school and pay a small fortune- idea.

 

My Alma Mater is currently $37,086 and no, that doesn't include room and board.  Private school. 

 

We have told our son there is no way he can even consider it.

 

My husband's alma mater (grad school) is currently $51,442 and that is for ONLY tuition.   With room and board and fees, it is $69, 711.   I read recently that it is currently ranked the most expensive college in the USA.   

 

Our kids will not be going there either.

 

Dawn

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When I went to KU (Kansas) 10-15 years ago, in-state tuition was I think less than $2,000/yr.  

 

Looked it up: 2002 was $1441/semester (tuition and fees) in-state, $4905 out of state.

 

By 2006, it had doubled for in state students ($3,076.25 in state, $7,561.25 out of state).

 

Now, 10 years later, it is 5,017.00 in state and 12,342.25 out of state.  

 

They've also long since reduced the NM scholarships they used to offer; when I attended (again, just 10 years ago!) it was full tuition + room and board, out of state; now it is $10,000/yr total. 

 

 

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Creekland - IL is right behind you at #4.  

 

The number on that link is average tuition, meaning the lower cost Tier 3 or unranked unis are pulling those figures down.

 

I did some checking and the least. expensive uni here in IL is just a tad over $10,000 a year.  Our flagship ranges from $15,600-20,600 depending on the program/degree.

 

The closest state university to our town is over $13,000.  It's a manageable commute and some grad students do it but few undergrads drive that distance.

 

Our CC is the third most expensive in the state.

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My Alma Mater is currently $37,086 and no, that doesn't include room and board.  Private school. 

 

We have told our son there is no way he can even consider it.

 

My husband's alma mater (grad school) is currently $51,442 and that is for ONLY tuition.   With room and board and fees, it is $69, 711.   I read recently that it is currently ranked the most expensive college in the USA.   

 

Our kids will not be going there either.

 

Schools are only list price if your EFC is that high and they don't offer merit aid that fits the student.

 

If one plugs in the list price for the schools my three attend(ed) they'd think we were uber wealthy or had oodles of loans racked up.  Neither is the case.  My kids have all gotten terrific combos of merit and need-based aid.  For two of the three, we paid less than state schools would have cost (even state schools with similar aid).  For my youngest we're paying a couple of thousand more, but not much - and his school is a much better fit for him.

 

Creekland - IL is right behind you at #4.  

 

The number on that link is average tuition, meaning the lower cost Tier 3 or unranked unis are pulling those figures down.

 

I did some checking and the least. expensive uni here in IL is just a tad over $10,000 a year.  Our flagship ranges from $15,600-20,600 depending on the program/degree.

 

The closest state university to our town is over $13,000.  It's a manageable commute and some grad students do it but few undergrads drive that distance.

 

Our CC is the third most expensive in the state.

 

It is absolutely our state schools that no one (outside of local) has ever heard about pulling that average down to third place.  

 

Penn St's tuition and fees are currently at $17,500 for in state.  Then, of course, add room and board, etc.

 

Slippery Rock or Kutztown will only be $7000 with fees ranging from $1800 - $2500.

 

Of course, one couldn't study engineering at Slippery Rock or Kutztown (or any of our 14 PASSHE schools), but one can't have everything I suppose.

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I know of private schools where there is no one on campus paying sticker price. We have private schools around here that are pretty much open admission with a $20000 minimum scholarship to anyone. That is what makes this all so frustrating. Sticker price does not mean much in most cases.

 

Just to repeat again that people have to be realistic about finances and know how aid works at individual schools. Without merit aid to our state flagship most private schools in our region would be the same or cheaper.

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Schools are only list price if your EFC is that high and they don't offer merit aid that fits the student.

 

If one plugs in the list price for the schools my three attend(ed) they'd think we were uber wealthy or had oodles of loans racked up.  Neither is the case.  My kids have all gotten terrific combos of merit and need-based aid.  For two of the three, we paid less than state schools would have cost (even state schools with similar aid).  For my youngest we're paying a couple of thousand more, but not much - and his school is a much better fit for him.

 

 

It is absolutely our state schools that no one (outside of local) has ever heard about pulling that average down to third place.  

 

Penn St's tuition and fees are currently at $17,500 for in state.  Then, of course, add room and board, etc.

 

Slippery Rock or Kutztown will only be $7000 with fees ranging from $1800 - $2500.

 

Of course, one couldn't study engineering at Slippery Rock or Kutztown (or any of our 14 PASSHE schools), but one can't have everything I suppose.

 

I have a sister who graduated from Slippery Rock *COLLEGE* (not university) in 1983. 

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Schools are only list price if your EFC is that high and they don't offer merit aid that fits the student.

 

If one plugs in the list price for the schools my three attend(ed) they'd think we were uber wealthy or had oodles of loans racked up.  Neither is the case.  My kids have all gotten terrific combos of merit and need-based aid.  For two of the three, we paid less than state schools would have cost (even state schools with similar aid).  For my youngest we're paying a couple of thousand more, but not much - and his school is a much better fit for him.

 

 

It is absolutely our state schools that no one (outside of local) has ever heard about pulling that average down to third place.  

 

Penn St's tuition and fees are currently at $17,500 for in state.  Then, of course, add room and board, etc.

 

Slippery Rock or Kutztown will only be $7000 with fees ranging from $1800 - $2500.

 

Of course, one couldn't study engineering at Slippery Rock or Kutztown (or any of our 14 PASSHE schools), but one can't have everything I suppose.

 

 

Yes, I do know that.  Although that isn't a given.  I have two friends whose kids were top notch and did not get scholarships when they thought they would.  

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I dunno. Looks like PA would have a tough time catching up with NH & VT! Holy cow they are high!

 

Twenty years ago, my sister graduated from Penn State main campus. It was chosen because it was the cheapest option for her. I doubt that would be true these days.

 

And I thought Texas was expensive. Turns out it is below the national average! Yikes!

 

Good links, MerryAtHope. TFS!

 

Ridiculous, isn't it?  The Live Free or Die state.  That's us.  We're dying.  Nothing free here.

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Not surprised to see NH with the highest.

 

 

Ridiculous, isn't it?  The Live Free or Die state.  That's us.  We're dying.  Nothing free here.

 

I was just looking at taxes versus tuition for the different states.  I'm thinking the "free" in NH is no taxes.  With no income tax and no sales tax, I'm guessing that there is very little money to pay for things like state colleges.  I live in a state with all three (property, sales, and income tax) so I'm guessing that helps there be money in the coffers to pay for part of the university expenses.  

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I was just looking at taxes versus tuition for the different states.  I'm thinking the "free" in NH is no taxes.  With no income tax and no sales tax, I'm guessing that there is very little money to pay for things like state colleges.  I live in a state with all three (property, sales, and income tax) so I'm guessing that helps there be money in the coffers to pay for part of the university expenses.  

 

We have all three - and the highest gas tax in the states, so don't tell me our other taxes all go to roads.

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Many of us still value the education and experience regardless of whether our kids end up using their specific degree or not.   :coolgleamA:

 

But yes, watch finances because super high student loans aren't anyone's goal.

 

Only one of my three kids would have been correct in his career future had he been required to decide it his sophomore year.  I had no idea then either.  My other two (and myself) all changed our minds (significantly) in college.  No regrets.   My college sophomore is still figuring it out, but is well on his way.  I recently talked with a colleague whose daughter figured it out in college too and is quite pleased (and poised for a job she enjoys) now, but had no clue her first couple of years of college and tried a couple of different directions first.

 

Then I'll add the usual note that college is NOT the correct path for everyone, but it is definitely a great path for many.  It's worth putting hours in investigating different schools.  I'd be really reluctant to hire a service (such as the article suggested) to do what I can do myself, but that choice is up to us all.

 

I found out what I wanted to do with my life my Senior year!  I went ahead and graduated with my major and just focused on my career in grad school.

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Based on the replies in this thread, affordability is in the eye of the beholder. ;)

 

I personally don't see how you can simply look at tuition costs to determine affordability. Room, board, and books can easily add $10,000- $12,000 on to tuition costs. No everyone lives within commuting distance of a 4 yr university offering the desired major.

 

If merit scholarships did not exist, our kids options would be very limited and definitely not great. $10,000 in tuition on top of room and board does not meet our definition of affordable.

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Based on the replies in this thread, affordability is in the eye of the beholder. ;)

 

I personally don't see how you can simply look at tuition costs to determine affordability. Room, board, and books can easily add $10,000- $12,000 on to tuition costs. No everyone lives within commuting distance of a 4 yr university offering the desired major.

 

If merit scholarships did not exist, our kids options would be very limited and definitely not great. $10,000 in tuition on top of room and board does not meet our definition of affordable.

 

 

Yes, very true.

I am just thankful we have the OPTION of a 4 year school that is under $10K locally.  This is literally less than most private Kindergartens in this area!

 

And just to let everyone know.....I am currently looking at going back to work.....one huge reason is to give my kids more choices for college.  

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