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article: The biggest college planning mistake parents make

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To us, affordable is what we can pay combined with our boys each having basic student loans (around 25K).  Hubby had a similar sized loan when he graduated.  We paid it off within 5 years and have been reaping the benefits ever since.

 

I don't really understand those who insist on no loans for the student. (Parents not wanting loans I understand.)  I'm against high loans.

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To us, affordable is what we can pay combined with our boys each having basic student loans (around 25K).  Hubby had a similar sized loan when he graduated.  We paid it off within 5 years and have been reaping the benefits ever since.

 

I don't really understand those who insist on no loans for the student. (Parents not wanting loans I understand.)  I'm against high loans.

 

 

Well, as has already been said, affordability is different for each person.

 

We are hoping to be able to cover our kids' college expenses without them taking out loans.  We aren't against loans per say, but if they can finish school without them, all the better.

 

$25K is about $6,200 per year.  That doesn't go very far.

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It's increasingly striking me that college is a very individual decision indeed -- more so than I think that I appreciated when my were younger.

 

I've shared here before that one of DS's friends is borrowing around $20,000-40,000/year for a liberal arts degree (obviously parents are signing as well). That's not something our family would do. Yes, he's getting a variety of wonderful experiences at a great school. I'm not sure that the trade-off for the debt is there though, but that's just me. If either of the parents has to stop working, it may unravel.

 

Others seem to set very high expectations and goals for teens that I know well enough to know that are unreasonable. Then the kid bottoms out and the kid and family are upset. They have college loans that have to be paid off and little to show for it.

 

Mostly I keep my mouth shut though!

 

What we're doing is reasonable given our values and constraints. I think that's the key. What are your values? What is wise financially?

Edited by G5052
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$25K is about $6,200 per year. That doesn't go very far.

Exactly. That amt does not open up a huge list of new options.

 

What we're doing is reasonable given our values and constraints. I think that's the key. What are your values? What is wise financially?

I agree. Others have different values and debt tolerances. We have to live in our own shoes. Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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It's increasingly striking me that college is a very individual decision indeed -- more so than I think that I appreciated when my were younger.

 

I've shared here before that one of DS's friends is borrowing around $20,000-40,000/year for a liberal arts degree (obviously parents are signing as well). That's not something our family would do. Yes, he's getting a variety of wonderful experiences at a great school. I'm not sure that the trade-off for the debt is there though, but that's just me. If either of the parents has to stop working, it may unravel.

 

Others seem to set very high expectations and goals for teens that I know well enough to know that are unreasonable. Then the kid bottoms out and the kid and family are upset. They have college loans that have to be paid off and little to show for it.

 

Mostly I keep my mouth shut though!

 

What we're doing is reasonable given our values and constraints. I think that's the key. What are your values? What is wise financially?

I think way more people are doing this than they will admit.

 

What I want to know is how these loans are going to be paid off, even if it's the parents taking on the bulk of them. I mean, dh will be about 64 when youngest graduates, and I think that's fairly average - maybe a bit higher, but not way outside the norm. That's about retirement age. If one is lucky enough to be fully employed at their current salary through their 60's, which is far from a given these days.

 

We have savings, but they're supposed to last us 20 years or so (and they're really not enough for that, honestly). So in the last few years we have to add to that savings, we're supposed to not save at all and take out huge loans? What are they expecting people to pay these loans off with (say they're 20,000 per kid per year - that's 80,000 for one kid, let's not even get into people with more than one. And that's not including all the interest that makes what you pay back way more than what you took out). From social security income?? What else is there? Where is the money to pay off these huge parent loans coming from??? The people taking out these huge loans are not the people with a huge savings they can pay it back from, or they just would have used that money and not taken loans.

 

The current senior citizens may be 'richer' than many working age folks, but the current working-age folks due to retire in just a few short years are going to be largely destitute, not only retiring with nowhere near enough savings, but with huge loans on top of it! I actually heard someone say it was good if you had kids when you were really old because you could take out college loans and just die before they got paid off!

Edited by Matryoshka
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I'm not sure this will make sense but-

 

I think there's a difference between someone who can weigh the costs-benefits (niche degree, extended alumni network, job placement) of assuming $20,000-40,000 loan per year for one student to go to college and those who think they have to do it just so Little Johnny can go to school for the 'college experience' or because they think that this is the only way Little Johnny will be successful.

 

I think I have mentioned this before but the local paper did an expose on a local girl who attended the local LAC and graduated with almost $180,000 in student loans.  She was an average, first gen student and didn't get any merit aid.  The article cited her need and desire for the 'whole package' - dorm life, sorority, etc.  Now she and her family are attempting to go after the school because she cannot repay those loans.  BTW - she was an average college student with a low job prospects degree. Her parents co-signed the loans and (it was reported) are losing everything because the loan payment is too high. This is the type of situation people need to reconsider.

 

 

Edited by ScoutermominIL
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I think there's a difference between someone who can weigh the costs-benefits (niche degree, extended alumni network, job placement) of assuming $20,000-40,000 loan per year for one student to go to college.....

This is the type of situation people need to reconsider.

I think that a whole lot more people need to reconsider. $80,000-$160,000 in loans for an UG degree is a LOT of money. My dh makes a great income; our kids are excellent students who have good job prospects, etc. No way we would take out that amt in loans even for 1child. There is a difference in being able to pay for it and taking out loans for it. That is a lot of debt for a UG degree.

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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.

This.

We do live within 20 minutes of a small state 4 yr & a CC. Neither are the best of the best, but they are here. The state school doesn't have the program ds thinks he wants, but does have a 3-2 transfer option for it. If he goes into his other interest, they have a program, but it's admittedly (from faculty we know in the dept) certainly not one of the better ones from our state schools, they recommend one 3 hours away...where we'd have to swing room & board.

 

Yet still, he may start at our local U, in order to be able to live at home a year or two, grow up & acquire some adult skills & study habits, before heading out on his own to a different 4 year.

 

We actually have a very full small house right now but are looking at adding on a small addition for the teens/ young adults. Still cheaper & will be useful long term than paying room & board. Our other option is him staying at his grandparents large mostly empty place in town near the college.

 

Obviously, not all classes will transfer, especially into certain programs, but I know the reality is many kids change their minds on majors always.

If he does we'll locally, with some more maturity under his belt, going off to a private 4 year to finish off the degree he really wants (that may cost more, no clue on merit aid yet), may be worthwhile at that point. I don't think he'll be ready to make that gamble at 18.(or I'm not willing)

Edited by Hilltopmom
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I think that a whole lot more people need to reconsider. $80,000-$160,000 in loans for an UG degree is a LOT of money. My dh makes a great income; our kids are excellent students who have good job prospects, etc. No way we would take out that amt in loans even for 1child. There is a difference in being able to pay for it and taking out loans for it. That is a lot of debt for a UG degree.

I agree with you but there are some who believe that loans (even excessive loans) are justifiable under certain conditions. 

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This.

 

I think when people point to individual schools with high tuition, they are missing that there are schools in every state that are still affordable, and in the majority of states, tuition & fees average at state universities average less than 10,000/yr. There are multiple colleges in my state that have OOS tuition around $12,000/yr and many colleges offer in-state tuition to neighboring states or regional discounts. College isn't cheap, but with a little shopping and an open mind, it can still be affordable for most people.

Edited by Momto2Ns
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 Her parents co-signed the loans and (it was reported) are losing everything because the loan payment is too high. This is the type of situation people need to reconsider.

 

This is why income-based loan repayment is a thing.

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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.  

Agreed.

 

For us, the tuition is generally not the issue at state schools, it is the heaping of room and boar, fees,  and then sometimes $750.00 - $1000 a semester for books on top of that which puts many schools that are not generous with merit aid out of reach.

 

Michigan is a bit of a pit. So many counties do not have anything that approximates something close to a decent community college much less a four year regional with robust programs that students can commute to which is one reason Michigan is in the top ten in the US for student debt. State aid is pathetic for the limited number of students that qualify, and merit aid at many places is too low for in ratio to cost of attendance. I think some schools are struggling to fill their dorms though because as parents wise up, more and more are finding apartments and roommates near campus and refusing to live in the dorms. Sharing expenses in cramped spaces, albeit some of them not too nice by any stretch, reduces the debt load.

 

It is cheaper for us to have ds in an apartment right now than pay room and board. His expenses are running about $650.00 a month, room and board was $10,000 for eight months and the meal plan was abysmal. He started out commuting (1 hr. 20 min. drive) which was cheap from the stand point that with gas prices down we were only out $200-250 a month, but living on side roads rurally, that became untenable this winter so he moved. $400.00 a month more, but none of the stress of driving long distance on icy roads, and he is even more involved on campus than he was before because it is so close by, and still far less than living on campus.

 

And yup, since we don't get a single dime of financial aid and no break for having two in with no expected break for three, I am headed back to the work place before I even have youngest graduated in order to keep the boys from having to take out private loans or parent loans for us. We are committed to their only debt being federal student loans at those super low interest rates. Youngest ds will have calc 1 with his dad in the evenings, physics and astronomy at U of Mi in Flint, English online, and history, foreign language, and fine arts with me since I'm starting back part time just to see how this all works for him. If he can handle full DE his senior year, I will go full time.

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I think that a whole lot more people need to reconsider. $80,000-$160,000 in loans for an UG degree is a LOT of money. My dh makes a great income; our kids are excellent students who have good job prospects, etc. No way we would take out that amt in loans even for 1child. There is a difference in being able to pay for it and taking out loans for it. That is a lot of debt for a UG degree.

 

I agree.

 

I am a huge believer in the benefits of a good liberal arts education.  I managed to luck into one, and I can honestly say it changed my life.

 

I would never reccomend any of my children take out significant loans for that kind of degree without a clear plan for making payments.  Even if I thought the child had a calling to academia I would be hesitant - I have enough university prof friends to know that having significant school debt can really be debilitating later, when they are ready to have families, because they are often older by the time they are pulling in a salary - if they can get a tenure track position.

 

In that kind of situation, I'd be encouraging some kind of other training, a trade or diploma, or some kind of internship.  I think most people can have a variety of kinds of work that will be satisfying to them.

 

It's also been interesting to me to see, over the last year or so, how little amounts can really be a problem.  My cousin has been looking to get some training during that time - she isn't university material, so she's was looking at things like office administration or an ECE diploma.  In her case she had academic issues that were a problem, but a really significant issue also turned out to be transport.  We have a lot of good training options in our city, and the expense is not as bad as many places in the US.  But she lives just outside of the city with no bus.  Her parents were willing to have her live at home and gave her a car, but she had to manage all the expenses.  It turned out to be a real problem for her to keep that car running, and without it she could not get to classes, or her pt work.

 

It's made me think we need to stay in town so long as we don't know what our kids will want to do.  At least they would be able to live at home and take the bus to almost any type of post-secondary education they might want.

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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.  

My state has all three (with high rates) and we're still in the top 4.  Our state has raised tuition and fees and cut financial and merit aid back to the bare bones.

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But does it apply to parent loans?? I didn't think so...

 

According to this, refinancing, income-contingent (caps repayment at 20% of discretionary income with forgiveness at the 25 year mark) and 10 year federal loan forgiveness for public service all apply to Parent PLUS loans.

 

So, "losing everything" because you can't afford the 10 year repayment plan monthly payments makes no sense whatsoever.

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According to this, refinancing, income-contingent (caps repayment at 20% of discretionary income with forgiveness at the 25 year mark) and 10 year federal loan forgiveness for public service all apply to Parent PLUS loans.

 

So the kid's paying back the Parent Plus loans?  Or is this 20% of the parents' retirement income?  Their social security benefit? 25-year forgiveness is ridiculous for parents who take out the loans in their 50's.  It's not the parent going into public service, right?

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Well, you hear a lot of things. One of our 4-H club members has parents convinced he must only attend a Christian college. He wants to major in Mechanical engineering. So right there his options are limited and especially for ABET certification.

 

He is going to go to Cedarville in the fall. $37,000 bill, $15,000 in merit and financial aid. The other $22,000? All loans. The price will go up every year as is usual, and he'll just keep loaning out more and more. This is a potential of $88,000 - $100,000 in debt.

 

That same degree can be had from U of MI Flint for $10,000 a year, and our eldest ds who lives just off campus in an apartment offered to have this young man bunk in with him for half the rent - $225.00 a month. Young man's parents would just have to pay for his cell phone and food, our guy has the car if the weather is yucky and they don't want to walk, no additional charge for being chauffeured to campus. But nope, they believe he'll lose his soul if he attends the state school. Meanwhile, they don't seem to see that our DS is involved in campus Bible study, many Christian activities on and off campus, and has a wonderful church downtown that he is attending and where he sings in the choir.

 

I don't get it. Trying not to be judgmental and failing because I think that $80,000 - $100,000 of debt is way too much for a young person starting out, highly employable major not withstanding.

 

Don't get me wrong, I like Cedarville. I really do. Its got a lot of good things going for it if you can afford it and can land their highest levels of merit aid. But that kind of debt makes my face twitch, and much of it will be at 10-14% interest and accruing each year. I could easily see that principal being $100,000 - $125,000 if the parents can't at least make the interest payment for him for those four years. I think the payments on that amount tend to run $900 - 1200.00 a month upon graduation. This kid could be eating ramen noodles and living in his car for the first few years after school and especially since they live in this very rural, backwoods county where there are no engineering jobs so he isn't going to be able to find employment here and live with his folks while he climbs out of debt.

 

:svengo:  :svengo:  :svengo: Not my cuppa tea for certain!

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Well, you hear a lot of things. One of our 4-H club members has parents convinced he must only attend a Christian college. He wants to major in Mechanical engineering. So right there his options are limited and especially for ABET certification.

 

He is going to go to Cedarville in the fall. $37,000 bill, $15,000 in merit and financial aid. The other $22,000? All loans. The price will go up every year as is usual, and he'll just keep loaning out more and more. This is a potential of $88,000 - $100,000 in debt.

 

That same degree can be had from U of MI Flint for $10,000 a year, and our eldest ds who lives just off campus in an apartment offered to have this young man bunk in with him for half the rent - $225.00 a month. Young man's parents would just have to pay for his cell phone and food, our guy has the car if the weather is yucky and they don't want to walk, no additional charge for being chauffeured to campus. But nope, they believe he'll lose his soul if he attends the state school. Meanwhile, they don't seem to see that our DS is involved in campus Bible study, many Christian activities on and off campus, and has a wonderful church downtown that he is attending and where he sings in the choir.

 

I don't get it. Trying not to be judgmental and failing because I think that $80,000 - $100,000 of debt is way too much for a young person starting out, highly employable major not withstanding.

 

Don't get me wrong, I like Cedarville. I really do. Its got a lot of good things going for it if you can afford it and can land their highest levels of merit aid. But that kind of debt makes my face twitch, and much of it will be at 10-14% interest and accruing each year. I could easily see that principal being $100,000 - $125,000 if the parents can't at least make the interest payment for him for those four years. I think the payments on that amount tend to run $900 - 1200.00 a month upon graduation. This kid could be eating ramen noodles and living in his car for the first few years after school and especially since they live in this very rural, backwoods county where there are no engineering jobs so he isn't going to be able to find employment here and live with his folks while he climbs out of debt.

 

:svengo:  :svengo:  :svengo: Not my cuppa tea for certain!

 

I think that you need to start with as few restrictions as possible and then see what will work out.  The more restrictions you add onto college selection, obviously the fewer options you will have.

 

If you have a particular degree requirement, plus local area, plus Christian then you may only have 1-2 colleges to pick from.

 

On the other hand, if you decide that you will consider a wider category of majors (which might describe similar topics with different names or might all get the student into areas of interest), consider local and more distant schools and look at local church and para-church support at secular schools, then you open up a lot more options.

 

My point of view is definitely colored by the fact that we live far from the mainland and will probably not live in the same place when our kids graduate from college.  In fact, we might have moved 2-3 times between ds1 starting and ds3 graduating.  

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Re: Cedarville U

 

My son attends that school. It is an excellent Christian school, and we are very happy with our decision to send him there. That said, if he/we would have needed to take on massive debt for him to attend, it would not have happened. CU is not well-known for overly generous merit/need aid, and many students end up paying a lot of money to go there. It's a values issue as to whether it is "worth it" for each individual student/family. They need to decide for themselves. For many, there's no price tag too high. For others, there's a limit. I'm not going to judge what others deem important for themselves.

Edited by Kinsa
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Having never gone to University myself, I will encourage my children to do so. I do feel as though I missed out on a lot more than just academics by not attending. I will not, however, push them towards it if they feel that it's not for them.

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Cedarville and Olivet are two of the schools families in our area seem to be willing to assume loans for.  Personal value/beliefs are some of the justification I alluded to earlier.

 

 

Edited by ScoutermominIL

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This.

 

I think when people point to individual schools with high tuition, they are missing that there are schools in every state that are still affordable, and in the majority of states, tuition & fees average at state universities average less than 10,000/yr. There are multiple colleges in my state that have OOS tuition around $12,000/yr and many colleges offer in-state tuition to neighboring states or regional discounts. College isn't cheap, but with a little shopping and an open mind, it can still be affordable for most people.

 

Wishing we lived in one of those states!

 

It is cheaper for us to have ds in an apartment right now than pay room and board. His expenses are running about $650.00 a month, room and board was $10,000 for eight months and the meal plan was abysmal. He started out commuting (1 hr. 20 min. drive) which was cheap from the stand point that with gas prices down we were only out $200-250 a month, but living on side roads rurally, that became untenable this winter so he moved. $400.00 a month more, but none of the stress of driving long distance on icy roads, and he is even more involved on campus than he was before because it is so close by, and still far less than living on campus.

 

This was true for me back when I went to college in the 80's, actually!

 

I'll have to think on the idea of commuting in nice weather and apartment living in winter months. Though honestly, if we can at all make it happen, I do like the idea of a student being able to be more involved on campus. Pros and cons...

 

Well, you hear a lot of things. One of our 4-H club members has parents convinced he must only attend a Christian college. He wants to major in Mechanical engineering. So right there his options are limited and especially for ABET certification.

 

He is going to go to Cedarville in the fall. $37,000 bill, $15,000 in merit and financial aid. The other $22,000? All loans. The price will go up every year as is usual, and he'll just keep loaning out more and more. This is a potential of $88,000 - $100,000 in debt.

 

That same degree can be had from U of MI Flint for $10,000 a year, and our eldest ds who lives just off campus in an apartment offered to have this young man bunk in with him for half the rent - $225.00 a month. Young man's parents would just have to pay for his cell phone and food, our guy has the car if the weather is yucky and they don't want to walk, no additional charge for being chauffeured to campus. But nope, they believe he'll lose his soul if he attends the state school. Meanwhile, they don't seem to see that our DS is involved in campus Bible study, many Christian activities on and off campus, and has a wonderful church downtown that he is attending and where he sings in the choir.

 

When dh was a youth pastor, he often helped parents to see that going to a secular school with a strong campus ministry and good local churches was often a good, viable option. We also often found that those who sent their kids to Christian schools could be surprised (because parents who hope Christian schools will "fix" their kids also send their kids there). Sometimes the atmosphere at a Christian school was more discouraging to a student who didn't expect to run into certain issues, than being at a big university with a strong campus ministry. Parents really have to be discerning when choosing a college, and go in with eyes open and prepare a student. 

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I've had the benefit of sending one to a Christian college and two to secular colleges.  Technically, Eckerd is affiliated with the Presbyterian church, but it also ranks in the Top 5 for "Reefer Madness," so... it's not really what most would consider Christian when they think about the stereotype.

 

All three have kept their faith.  If you had to ask me, my two who are at secular colleges are stronger in their faith.

 

I've seen many Christian students from our high school go on to college.  Whether they stick with their faith or not - and how strongly - seems to be a bit more dependent upon the student than the college they choose.

 

I'd pick a college much more on fit (overall) than dividing at the beginning by Christian or secular (for Christian kids).  All three of mine considered both types of schools and picked their choice based upon overall fit (including finances).  So far, none have regrets.

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Virginia isn't a cheap state for tuition, either ;)  (and costs have gone up more than double the national average in 5 years).  BONUS: Merit Aid can be slim to none, and varies by school/department within a school.

 

Assuming in-state tuition for VA Tech (which is not a given), completing their Net Price Calculator (which gave us a $3500 Pell Grant, $1500 in Work-Study, and $5500 in Subsidzed Student Loans), and the maximum Merit Aid from the School of Engineering $7,000 -- our expected financial contribution was about $18,000 a year.  We won't even own a house to borrow against.  I graduated in 1990, and from my freshman year (87-88) to my sophomore year, my tuition doubled.  Unfortunately, they didn't double my "full tuition" scholarship.  It was changed to a flat-rate, and then covered half of my tuition.  Entering the University, I had saved enough (plus continued work) to graduate debt free.  With that one change, I wound up having to take out a small loan ($7700) my senior year.

 

We are not against loans, and I would feel comfortable with my kids having about $5000-$6000 a year in loans.  I'd prefer no loans, but  we need to be flexible.  I do want my son to have a wonderful college experience as well as earn a degree he is interested in.  This is one reason local colleges (to our home in VA) aren't an option.  I see no upside to forcing my child to study something he's not interested in, simply so he can live at home and "save money."  In the same vein, I can't make a requirement of attending a Christian University.  

 

I'm really hating this college research phase, but there are some good things coming from it.

 

1) DS is becoming a lot more motivated regarding coursework, test scores/grades -- because he knows this is really the ONLY way he's going to be able to afford college.

2) He has learned about some very interesting colleges we hadn't heard of before (Webb Institute), or hadn't really considered (Notre Dame).  

3) He is thinking and reading about careers/career options and trying them on (thinking about the work, learning about the work, visualizing himself doing that work).  

4) PokeMan has gotten the college bug (he's 12), and has been taking career interest tests, is seriously enamored with USNA, and is loving the idea of being a neuro surgeon.

 

And, I am sooo glad that PonyGirl is only interested in Math or Marine Biology.  

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Assuming in-state tuition for VA Tech (which is not a given), completing their Net Price Calculator (which gave us a $3500 Pell Grant, $1500 in Work-Study, and $5500 in Subsidzed Student Loans), and the maximum Merit Aid from the School of Engineering $7,000 -- our expected financial contribution was about $18,000 a year.  We won't even own a house to borrow against.  I graduated in 1990,   

 

Assuming you're still talking about VT, I didn't realize you were also a Hokie!   :hurray: 

 

Our graduating years are only one year off from each other... ;)

 

I wonder how many times we saw each other there and never knew it...

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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.

 

That is just so sad. My older and wiser self would love to have the opportunities you've mentioned; my younger, drunker self would not have known how to acquire or appreciate them.  I didn't know that professors actually want you to come see them until I was probably a junior.

 

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To us, affordable is what we can pay combined with our boys each having basic student loans (around 25K).  Hubby had a similar sized loan when he graduated.  We paid it off within 5 years and have been reaping the benefits ever since.

 

I don't really understand those who insist on no loans for the student. (Parents not wanting loans I understand.)  I'm against high loans.

 

Creekland, I've been rethinking our original "no debt for the student" stance.  We paid the five figure tuition for our dd's vocational program and for a semester of our older ds's first attempt at college. They really each needed to have "skin in the game."  We are thinking that youngest ds does too. If he takes the usual loans at $3500 to $5500 per year and contributes his summer earnings for textbooks and personal spending, I think he would be more careful about wasting our dollars. I thought someone on here a few years ago figured out how much each class actually cost for their student to attend.  It's one thing to miss a 50 minute class, but when you know it's worth $90 or whatever, the student gets a different perspective.

 

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Creekland, I've been rethinking our original "no debt for the student" stance.  We paid the five figure tuition for our dd's vocational program and for a semester of our older ds's first attempt at college. They really each needed to have "skin in the game."  We are thinking that youngest ds does too. If he takes the usual loans at $3500 to $5500 per year and contributes his summer earnings for textbooks and personal spending, I think he would be more careful about wasting our dollars. I thought someone on here a few years ago figured out how much each class actually cost for their student to attend.  It's one thing to miss a 50 minute class, but when you know it's worth $90 or whatever, the student gets a different perspective.

 

 

I'm ending up rethinking my "against high loans" bit too... considering what info I got on my medical school thread.

 

I guess one should never say never.  Sometimes loans (even higher ones) are worth the investment if opportunities are worth it.

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In college decision making, there seems to be the have's, the have not's, and the really haves. And then of course there is another category of kids whose parents didn't care and wouldn't have helped even if they could. I am not even going to touch that category. But of the first three categories, the have nots generally do not have to worry because they can get financial aid and Pell grant. The really have's don't have to worry because their parents can afford whatever for school and are willing to pay it. And then the rest of the population. When the have's try to communicate with the other two groups, it just does not go well. There is not much understanding or empathy from the have nots and the really haves. The have nots perceive that the haves have enough to pay and do it all. The really haves assume the haves can get financial aid or just refuse to spend the money. I have seen the really haves insult the haves for having limits on where their children can go and what they will pay for, or even for expecting the kids to have jobs in high school and college. I am just a "have." When it is time for college, that is when the real income divide happens and it splits in many places and I do not think people get it. Also, I am a big believer that all tax paid financial aid (grants or any money given through a tax payer supported source) should be limited to financial need. I do not think the right people benefit when aid is given based on being some sort of special group - gender, religion, race, immigrant status, sexual orientation, parental education status, pet ownership, etc etc etc, high school enrolled in at time of graduation (that is often done to get around using funds that are not permitted to be given based on the other special groups). These special groups often end up funding financially capable people. If anyone is in that group and cannot afford college, by removing the money based on those superficial qualifications and basing it strictly on income, many many more people can be served who need it. 

Edited by Janeway
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In college decision making, there seems to be the have's, the have not's, and the really haves. 

"almost-have" instead of "have" ??   

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"almost-have" instead of "have" ??   

Basically, yep. Many people called the haves by many actually don't have a ton, just have enough. So, we have a nice house and two cars. Our cars and older and paid off and our furniture comes from inexpensive stores and clothes from sales and places like Target. And we rarely take vacations. But, the kids have extracurriculars and such. They would be perceived as "haves" or "almost haves." 

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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.

 

Agreed. We could spend $$ if we were only planning to send one kid to college ("pick a favorite!!"). But, when we fully realized HOW expensive college was (and I thought I knew! I knew it had "increased" since my high school years 20 years ago... and I casually looked up the information and would just see the "tuition" cost and think "that's not so bad." THEN I realized the fees pretty much equal the tuition, plus room, & often-mandatory meal plans .... O_O Oh my!) - it changed everything. Our state universities give spectacularly crappy merit and financial aid - it would have cost dd more to attend the large public uni here, 20 minutes away, than it would have cost to attend several other OOS universities. Grrrrrrr.

 

I have learned that it will not pay off long-term for me to get a job any time soon, as I'd planned to do, due to the financial aid structure at several universities dd#2 will likely apply to. Which feels bizarre (that it would cost us MORE $ in the long-term for me to go back to work...).

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But of the first three categories, the have nots generally do not have to worry because they can get financial aid and Pell grant.  

 

This only really happens at top schools - schools so "top" that they are difficult to get into for anyone.  Some of those schools are need aware, so the competition for those who have high need is even more fierce.

 

Otherwise, these kids often end up with loans and/or simply not being able to afford four year schools just like your "haves."

 

On top of that, the "have nots," even if they get into a top school, often have difficulty with everyday expenses (clothes, travel, toiletries, computers, etc) and can feel really out of place at top schools where some of the other students get annual trips to Europe.

 

The merit aid you don't feel should exist can actually be better for both "have nots" and "haves" as colleges with terrific merit aid can bring costs lower than an EFC for higher academic students who can't make it in to those top schools.  It can also cover more than some gaps other colleges leave between what can be afforded and what is offered.

 

Regardless, it is very important that families who need $$ to assist with college costs look very carefully at what schools tend to offer in need or merit aid when combing through options.  It's also important to understand all hooks that might help with aid - geographical and otherwise.

 

I'm all for merit aid.  Top academic students should be rewarded for their achievements and should be encouraged to continue on with their education whether their folks are willing to pay or not.  Some colleges attract these students without offering merit aid.  Others use merit aid to attract them, not unlike a sale at a given store.  I'm fine with that.

 

I also love colleges trying for diversity in their classes, so have no complaints with hooks either.  So much can be learned from the diverse backgrounds of peers.

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Also, I am a big believer that all tax paid financial aid (grants or any money given through a tax payer supported source) should be limited to financial need. I do not think the right people benefit when aid is given based on being some sort of special group - gender, religion, race, immigrant status, sexual orientation, parental education status, pet ownership, etc etc etc, high school enrolled in at time of graduation (that is often done to get around using funds that are not permitted to be given based on the other special groups). These special groups often end up funding financially capable people.

I really hope you aren't implying that veterans who earned the G.I. Bill (and other veteran college benefits) shouldn't receive it if they can otherwise afford to pay for college. The G.I. Bill is not a handout; it is a hard-earned benefit given to men and women who sacrificed a lot to support and defend those tax payers.

Edited by Kinsa
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Janeway,

 

I recommend running net price calculators if you haven't. According to the way FA works, we are closer to " really" haves vs. "haves." We do not qualify for much FA. Our EFC according to profile schools, not FAFSA schools, is between $25,000-$30,000 per yr. FA formulas do not really take family size into consideration unless 2 kids are in college at the same time (and then it really depends on the school as to whether it makes a real difference.).

 

Since our kids are spread out over 21 yrs, they don't overlap much. According to FA formulas, we are expected to contribute $800,000 to close to $1,000,000 toward college costs bc it is essentially 25 solid yrs, sometimes with double costs, of $25,000-$30,000 college payments.

 

And that is based on a chemEs salary. Ummm, my dh has a great job, but that amt of $$ is 100% unrealistic, bc those same kids expect to eat, have shoes, etc. They "consume" that $$. It is not spent frivolously.

 

FA formulas are far from perfect. If you are making any sort of judgments based on what FA formulas are saying, you are missing the big picture and just how imperfect the entire system is.

 

You also have the option of working around the system. It is now,our kids have gone to college. FA is not going to help our kids attend college. It just isn't. They have to either earn high dollar merit scholarships or they have to live at home and attend a local school.

 

Anyway, my point is that the issue is not the "really haves," the "haves," and the " not haves." The problems are far more complex. Regardless of some of the posts suggesting that colleges are affordable, college costs have drastically outpaced inflation. I worked my way through college, no living at home. That is unrealistic today. My tuition was just a little over $800 per yr full-time 30 yrs ago. Today that university's tuition is $10,000/ yr.

 

FA formulas are flawed.

 

It really is pointless to get upset about the system, though, bc all you do is end up upset and it won't change a thing. It is what it is. It was like this when our oldest started college in 2007 and it is exactly the same way today. Nothing has changed except that colleges have gotten even more expensive.

 

ETA: I just put $800 in an inflation calculator for my freshman yr of college, 1984. It converts to $1826. So, no, tuition costs are not reasonable compared to comparative costs 30 yrs ago.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Tuition/Room/Board has outpaced wages in the past 20 years by 415%. I know no one whose income has gone up 415%. No one. They may be out there someplace in Silicon Valley or something, but I've never personally met anyone who can handle this kind of insanity. Though FASFA's "assumption" is that people have been saving for their kids' educations, it is impossible on a middle class salary to save enough to make a drop in the bucket in a 415% out pacing of income.

 

So FASFA is a total joke for everyone who is not earning less than $50,000 a year.  Some states have state grants and hand those out at higher levels, but not in many of the states hardest hit by the loss of manufacturing like Michigan where education budgets, funding for colleges, and funding for financial aid have been cut to the bone. Two in college probably won't help either. Above a certain and not particularly generous level of income, there is no break for two in school, they just simply take last year's EFC with one in school, and essentially double it or something close to that. With three in school, our combined EFC will likely be 2/3 of dh's take home pay. The federal government does not feel this is unreasonable since all of our congresspersons are so far out of touch with the reality of their constituents that they should be considered totally delusional aliens from outer space. But I digress!

 

You simply have to look at NPC's. Then you have to take a look at average merit aid package that school gives for students with your child's stats, and just to make sure you don't over estimate, deduct 25% from that total, then take that new merit aid number and subtract from the total cost of attendance. If travel and books are something you can manage without rolling that into the college bill - you have some savings, or some leeway in your monthly budget, or want to put it on a reward visa card and pay off throughout the year or whatever - you can deduct those costs from the NPC. This will give you an idea. Also note that because Stafford/Perkins loans are government backed they are considered financial aid even though they are debt so financial aid awards will include those loans, do not make the mistake that some parents do that these are grants. If you are comfortable with your student taking out those loans, and your child agrees, then deduct that from the total. This new sub total is a fairly realistic number. NPC's usually ask for your estimated EFC so IF there is a chance the student will qualify for a grant, the NPC normally includes that in the break down. If there is a gap between your EFC and the net price, do not assume the school will fill that. We've appealed when there have been BIG gaps, and not received a dime. So you have to think about how to fill that gap. More loans? Campus job (this is doable if the gap isn't too big, but you have to be careful when it says things like campus job =$4000 or worse because it means your kid is probably going to be working a huge number of hours which if the merit aid package is GPA linked may not be a good thing at all, parent loans. And this is assuming that you can afford the EFC to begin with which in many cases isn't an option either.

 

Then you have to consider how much of the merit aid package is freshman year only and how much is renewable. Our friends are in the boat that they didn't read their daughter's package thoroughly - missed some fine print - and her largest scholarship was not renewable...one of those teaser scholarships to get the student to come. This left them with a gap for the upcoming sophomore year that they couldn't fill without private loans which they did not want. Since they don't qualify for state grants and such due to being "rich" by government standards (ha - ha - ha - ha - ha), the only option was to increase income thus the reason that the mom has gone back to work, and the retired grandma is homeschooling the younger two children.

 

I am going back to work this fall for that very reason. EFC plus any gap is just an out of sight amount of money with two kids in college, and two years from now a third. (Thankfully that is for only one year. If we can prevent starvation and homelessness that year, dh and I have a shot at survival after that!) It is tough.  We are considering selling the house that year, and moving to an efficiency apartment just for that time. The boys, when home from college, can stay with my mother in law who has a lovely home. It would reduce our monthly budget so much, and while the house has lost a huge amount of value in this market that never recovered from the housing crash, the proceeds would still be enough divided by three to finish out their educations without us borrowing from retirement funds or taking out loans leaving the boys with only the federal loans (skin in the game) which should not be too much of a burden for them to pay back. We'd never own a home again, however since we want to travel a lot, that may not be a bad thing actually. The maintenance, homeowner's insurance, property tax, and utilities to heat this big place are a bit of a killer.

We let ds apply to only one school that was a serious financial reach for us, and that was because they are known for generous merit aid. University of Rochester. He was accepted, and he did get a decent package. The net bill wasn't entirely out of the realm of reality, but close. WMU, however, had the specific research program he wanted, and our EFC plus gap was less (though still ridiculous) than UR so WMU won. My advice is not to even bother falling in love with or applying to financial reaches unless they have big merit aid reputations (like U of Alabama, UR) and your student has the stats to potentially land that big package. This way the student does not get his or her heart set on a college for which there simply is no possibility of attending unless one is comfortable with large, private student loan debt.

 

Don't discount good regional universities. Some of them are real gems hidden in the gravel, and will give quite generously to get top students to come there as it is good for their reputations.

 

There are states out there that are so much better helping their citizens pay for college. I kind of wish we had researched that before the boys reached high school, and then moved there to establish residency before this became an issue. Staying in Michigan to be near family has been a very costly, very near disastrous decision for us and for them.

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I really hope you aren't implying that veterans who earned the G.I. Bill (and other veteran college benefits) shouldn't receive it if they can otherwise afford to pay for college. The G.I. Bill is not a handout; it is a hard-earned benefit given to men and women who sacrificed a lot to support and defend those tax payers.

No..I am not referencing those groups. They earned it. They should still get it. 

 

I am referencing the long list of..do you have a parent who is a migrant worker in the last five years, if your parents didn't graduate college, if you graduated from a high school on a certain list (and they are not even all title 1, but even if they were, it should still go based on income of the individual as not every student in that school will need the money, and the ones who do can qualify individually), there is a whole list. I also agree with kids adopted from foster care should still have school paid for or I think less children would be adopted. These lists are of higher risk populations that might not be able to afford it, but some can afford it and by only giving aid based on income, those who cannot afford it would still be served, and those who can, would no longer get money based on these superficial things and it would free up more money to help students who cannot afford to go.

Edited by Janeway
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No..I am not referencing those groups. They earned it. They should still get it.

 

I am referencing the long list of..do you have a parent who is a migrant worker in the last five years, if your parents didn't graduate college, if you graduated from a high school on a certain list (and they are not even all title 1, but even if they were, it should still go based on income of the individual as not every student in that school will need the money, and the ones who do can qualify individually), there is a whole list. I also agree with kids adopted from foster care should still have school paid for or I think less children would be adopted. These lists are of higher risk populations that might not be able to afford it, but some can afford it and by only giving aid based on income, those who cannot afford it would still be served, and those who can, would no longer get money based on these superficial things and it would free up more money to help students who cannot afford to go.

Free up more money how exactly? Schools are not required to give grants or institutional aid. Federal aid is a drop in the bucket.....Pell + federal loans don't add up to enough to go away to college.

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Free up more money how exactly? Schools are not required to give grants or institutional aid. Federal aid is a drop in the bucket.....Pell + federal loans don't add up to enough to go away to college.

 

Maximum Pell Grant is $5770.  Maximum subsidized loans are $5500.  Just over $11K.  That doesn't even cover tuition at a state school here, not to mention room and board.

 

Private schools are now asking up to $60K for tuition/room/board.  They may offer more institutional grants, but are they giving out up to $50K for the truly needy?  I seriously doubt it.

 

In either scenario, they likely want the student (or their parents) to take out hefty private loans on top of it.

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FaithManor,

 

I have a question for you since you have obviously explored the impact that going back to work would have on financial aid.

 

Can you please give me a scenario where it isn't worth a parent going back to work?

 

For example, at ds's first choice, we talked with the financial aid office about the scenario if I went back to work and say I made $30,000 a year. In that case, ds would lose his $12,500 grant. I get that it would appear then, that I worked the whole year for only $17,500, which for some may not make my effort worthwhile. (I am keeping taxes out of it for simplicity.)

 

But here's the deal.  Ds is our youngest and I was always going to go back to work.  I still have over a decade before we are retirement age and that's a good chunk of time to be dropping additional funds into our retirement account. I will also be in my late 50s when he graduates and that's an even more difficult age to start a second career.

 

I am assuming that scenarios where it isn't worth a second income usually involve having younger children at home?

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I think that if the student is getting more financial aid than what the parent could contribute to the school bill, then going back to work for the sake of paying for college wouldn't be worth it. You have to do more than break even on that score, and you have to take into account the "cost" of work. Does it mean buying another car, paying more car insurance, buying clothing or uniforms, gas, etc. All the costs of having the job have to be factored in as well.

 

But, the bigger issue for many could be retirement. Beyond getting our kids through college, there has to be thought of what we are going to do when we are no longer able to work, when health, and age catch up to us. If we don't save for retirement and become a financial burden to our kids, we might not be doing them any favors to pay for school instead of retirement. So it is a bit of a catch 22.

 

If you made, say $30,000.00, and that was your net after costs and you paid the $17,500 into a mutual fund/IRA, etc., what is the net value down the road? It might very much be worth it to you to work for that $17,500 due to the compounded interest and the security of having it. Maybe not. That is such an individual thing.

 

My IRA tanked big time when the housing bubble burst. I'm going to be 48 in a few days, and when I think about the way the country is going, I feel like we simply need more savings. For us, our kids literally do not get a single dime of financial aid, period. So we sacrifice nothing financially for me to go back to work. We are going to be paying a hefty amount no matter what, and if I can contribute to that amount and add to our retirement fund, then that is a win-win for us. So whatever I earn is a help, and 60% will go to college, and 40% to savings.

 

It definitely isn't worth it in most cases if one is only going to work a lot of hours with nothing much to profit or worse break even/go in the hole. The only exception I can think of to this is in the case of a house who did not work enough quarters to draw social security or who might be able to draw but only the a small amount due to having so little earnings. Some will want to work just to beef that up a bit. I know of a few women who will be ineligible to draw because they married at 18, and never worked for pay. If widowed, they can draw on their husband's benefits, but if he simply retires, there is no additional income to draw unless he has been contributing to an IRA for a long time. However, given the annual limit that can be contributed on a non-working spouse, even if he did this for 20 or 30 years, it is still not very much money per month paid out once contributions end.

 

I guess all that to say it is entirely individualistic because it depends on the goal.

Edited by FaithManor
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I wish it was easier to go to college, even if for a short time, just for the experience.  I paid my way to college.  My parents divorced, our college funds were lost in that process(who knows what happened to them), and I didn't want to go to college and live at home.  I worked all summer and wrote the check to go to the large State University.  I needed to get out from under my mom's household.  I grew up a lot that year.  Sold almost everything I owned throughout the year to pay for things I wanted/needed.  I worked 3 jobs at times during school.  I was able to do this with no loans until my senior year.  I had taken a year to travel and wasted lots of savings.  I grew up a lot that year.  I decided the loans would allow me to focus on my studies and graduate(I took 6 years and 3 colleges to graduate, not counting the extra year to travel).  I was able to pay off my loans in a few years since it was a low amount.  

 

you can't do that anymore.  Work a summer, pay for school.  And we have not put money to college for our kids. Reality is, we don't have enough for retirement.  Being home all these years hasn't allowed that.  What do I want for my kids?  

 

I would love both to go to college.  I think there is value in the experience.  I have my degree.  I worked for a few years before staying home with my kids.  No regrets how I did my life.  But like I said above I didn't go broke or bankrupt to do it that way. 

 

My son doesn't have college interests.  I am pushing him toward CC or a trade school.  He may just need to work a job to figure out his dreams.  Honestly, I can see him working seasonal jobs so he can go backpacking.  That would be ideal to him. No set home, just free time to backpack LOL

 

My daughter wants to go.  We may do dual enrollment so she can get some college done early.  I will go back to work to help pay for this.  She will have to do loans.  I see her dedication though.  She asks for jobs so she can earn money for college.  I have no doubt she will get a job at 16 and put every dime away for school.  

 

Dh and I both paid for our schooling.  Having to work and do loans taught us a lot.  it's sad how it is today.  You can't get the experience of growing up in that environment anymore without a chunk of money.  So our kids may or may not get that experience. 

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Some of us work just because we enjoy it too.  There can be more to a job than pure finances involved.  It's ok with me if my money ends up going to my boys' colleges (not all of it does, but of course some does).  What goes there probably frees up institutional $$ for other students to get aid.

 

 

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 I know of a few women who will be ineligible to draw because they married at 18, and never worked for pay. If widowed, they can draw on their husband's benefits, but if he simply retires, there is no additional income to draw unless he has been contributing to an IRA for a long time. However, given the annual limit that can be contributed on a non-working spouse, even if he did this for 20 or 30 years, it is still not very much money per month paid out once contributions end.

 I very much enjoyed reading through your posts. You've clearly given these financial issues a lot of thought and consideration.  I have just a couple clarifications.

 

First, a non-working spouse can definitely claim social security benefits based on the working spouses record.  If claimed at full-retirement age, it is roughly equal to half of the working spouses full benefit.  Here's some info on the SSA website: https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3754/What-is-the-eligibility-for-Social-Security-spouse-s-benefits-and-my-own-retirement-benefits

 

Second, a couple can contribute the same amount to the non-working spouses IRA as to the working spouses IRA, currently $5500 for each ($6500 if over 50).  If this is done for 30 years, the IRA calculator on the Bank Rate website estimates a total of about $556,000 at retirement. Using the rule-of-thumb of 4% for a safe withdrawal rate, that would add about $1850 per month to the couple's retirement income. I consider that a significant amount, especially considering that this is in addition to social security benefits for both of them, the working spouses IRA, and the working spouses work retirement plans (401K, 403B, 457, etc.) 

 

My apologies for veering the thread off the college financing discussion and into retirement planning.  It is definitely a tricky balance for each family to traverse.

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This is why income-based loan repayment is a thing.

 

 

But does it apply to parent loans?? I didn't think so...

I looked it up.  PLUS loans to parents are NOT eligible.  So, if parents dig themselves a hole, they won't get any relief. 

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And I am pretty sure I will go back to work when the kids are in college.  I haven't figured out how that would affect our income and college tuition.  Being out of the workforce for so long I don't know I could get a job.  I suppose last resort I start teaching co-op classes.  Any income I make should go toward retirement since we haven't been able to save much with moving too many times.  I want to help my kids toward school, but until we are there I can't say for sure.  If they continue living at home we would need my income to save for retirement.  If they move out dh and I plan to get a small place, so we would have income to help with college.  

 

No easy answers.  

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I looked it up.  PLUS loans to parents are NOT eligible.  So, if parents dig themselves a hole, they won't get any relief. 

This!

 

And if you are within 15 years of retirement, that is NOT a good time to take out these kinds of loans. 10 years from retirement age is scary. The reality is that people are living longer, but that does not equate to people living healthy enough to work past 65. A good many have already had their first strokes, heart attacks, you name it. I hate to be the debbie downer, but that is the reality. Taking out a boatload of parent plus loans ten to fifteen years from when a person is very likely to be existing on lower income is not wise. The only caveat might be if the house is worth just a huge amount, more equity than needed to pay off those loans, so when health starts to take a turn, the house is sold and the proceeds used to pay off the debt.

 

I just know I don't want dh to be 68 and paying off college loans. UGH.

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And if you are within 15 years of retirement, that is NOT a good time to take out these kinds of loans.

 

I just know I don't want dh to be 68 and paying off college loans. UGH.

These points are why I harp on affordability so much. It really strikes close to home bc I am getting ready to turn 50, but I still have little kids. Dh will be close to retirement when our youngest graduates from high school.

 

We have to protect our ability to pay for our own later yrs bc we don't want to be a burden on our kids. There are affordable, if less appealing, ways to approach college.

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In college decision making, there seems to be the have's, the have not's, and the really haves. And then of course there is another category of kids whose parents didn't care and wouldn't have helped even if they could. I am not even going to touch that category. But of the first three categories, the have nots generally do not have to worry because they can get financial aid and Pell grant. The really have's don't have to worry because their parents can afford whatever for school and are willing to pay it. And then the rest of the population. When the have's try to communicate with the other two groups, it just does not go well. There is not much understanding or empathy from the have nots and the really haves. The have nots perceive that the haves have enough to pay and do it all. The really haves assume the haves can get financial aid or just refuse to spend the money. I have seen the really haves insult the haves for having limits on where their children can go and what they will pay for, or even for expecting the kids to have jobs in high school and college. I am just a "have." When it is time for college, that is when the real income divide happens and it splits in many places and I do not think people get it. Also, I am a big believer that all tax paid financial aid (grants or any money given through a tax payer supported source) should be limited to financial need. I do not think the right people benefit when aid is given based on being some sort of special group - gender, religion, race, immigrant status, sexual orientation, parental education status, pet ownership, etc etc etc, high school enrolled in at time of graduation (that is often done to get around using funds that are not permitted to be given based on the other special groups). These special groups often end up funding financially capable people. If anyone is in that group and cannot afford college, by removing the money based on those superficial qualifications and basing it strictly on income, many many more people can be served who need it. 

 

I have seen too many people in the "have not" category not be able to make it because grants ARE NOT ENOUGH. Having been one of the people in the "have not" category who DID make it through school, I was only able to because I had GI Bill ON TOP OF pell grants and other 0 expected contribution aid, and a spouse who was working/partly supporting me thru undergrad. I've known too many people who fell in the "single mom stuck working at Wal-Mart who wants to better her situation by going to school, but can't even manage to go part time because she still has to keep a roof over her family's head even if food stamps will feed them" category to buy the argument that it's somehow easy for the have-nots because there are grant programs. 

 

I am 100% on board with your critique of how the "really haves" view the "haves" and having clawed my way into an income bracket that is technically the "haves," I think that the reality is that a lot of people who think they are "haves" are probably "have nots." Especially if they are "haves" with a lot of student debt of their own. 

 

The only tax-paid financial aid I have heard of that targets "special group" status are those for veterans, for Native Americans (by political status, not race), and maybe for first-generation college bound students and/or age restricted for only those coming straight out of high school.

 

I agree with you about reserving funding for those coming straight out of high school. If anything, there should be incentives in place to enter the work force for a while before starting college. There is nothing to give you skin in the game like knowing what it is like to work for a living and wanting to better your prospects. I don't buy that making college cost money to the student takes away "skin in the game" when the student has the experience and maturity to know what the cost of failure will be.

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