Ka-Ching

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
You know, when my Smart Twins were middle and high school students, my role as their mom consisted of me being present in their life with a great big sign that said "I don't know shit."

Now that they're a bit older, my sign alternates between "I may know a little shit" and "Woman with the Check Book."

The Smart Boy is making his final preparations to start college next week, and like all parents with college age students, my savings are taking a beating. First it was the new laptop - an HP TouchSmart Tx-2 from Best Buy, along with the 3 year service agreement. Then it was clothing, although that's usually not too much money - the Smart Boy's fashion sense tends toward Levi's and T-shirts. Next it's his college tuition for his first semester. Since he's attending a local regional college, the cost is pretty affordable, at least for now.

I make a good living. My company pays well, and I'm debt-free with the exception of the mortgage on the Big Yellow House. I can afford to pay my share of the Smart Twins' college expenses. But I cannot imagine how low income families manage to send their kids to college without incurring massive amounts of debt.

No wonder there are so many adult students out there. No one can afford to go to college right out of high school, and instead enroll in the twenty year plan and earn a living in the mean time.

14 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

That and the sticker shock. Comparing Fall 2009 tuition rates with Fall 1976 isn't fair.

Dr. Phil

MWT said...

Well, financial aid helps quite a lot. That's where the government picks up the tab if you're deemed sufficiently needy - and if you're in the extra needy category you never have to pay interest and might also get full-fledged grants. Then (at least in theory) you pay it back after you graduate and get a job (the parts that were loans).

Of course, if you're poor and also estranged from your parents, you're basically screwed - because they take parental income into account whether they'll actually help pay or not. There's ways to talk your way out of that but it requires lots of forms...

Also, unless you're supersmart and land great scholarships, you're basically limited to public colleges. Financial aid will only go so far.

Terry Mc said...

Never mind the genius kids and the fact you'll be spewing cash like a neck wound for the next few years. I'm ecstatic that the Funniest Person At Work(tm) has a blog that's even funnier than laughing at our coworkers...

I don't have much to say on the cost of college it turns out, just wanted to post up that I'm enjoying the reading.

Janiece Murphy said...

Welcome, Terry.

Y'all, Terry is one of my co-workers. Don't feel any need to go easy on him - just pile on. He can take it.

Hee.

ntsc said...

Tuition room and board at the private college I went to was $2100 (plus books and a $5/week allowance) about 1/3 of my mother's income. My 2nd and 3rd year it went up to $2400, 4th was probably $2700-2800.

There was something called NDEA which were direct goverment loans on which interest did not start, at 3%, until you finished college. It also didn't accrue during first term of military service. When I finally graduated, 4.5 years college and 3 years Army, I owed just over $3000 (which was almost as much as I made in the Army per year) with 10 years to pay it off.

I've no idea how he did in college, colleges no longer mail grades to paying parents, and if I had forced them out of him he rightly would have told me to Fuck Off. He got into a good graduate school (NYU) and got two Masters in 3 years (intentional plan). He was also left with a debt in eccess of $100,000. The Masters were entirely on him, well I paid for the applications, college was mostly on my wife and I and high school was entirely on us. public school but as he wasn't a resident I paid tuition.

Janiece Murphy said...

...colleges no longer mail grades to paying parents, and if I had forced them out of him he rightly would have told me to Fuck Off.

Um, no. Around here, you don't get to beg and boss at the same time. If I'm paying your bills, then I get to see the outcome with no bitching. Or you can pay your own damn tuition and buy your own damn laptop.

Steve Buchheit said...

Ah, do it like some of the rest of us did, go into debt up to your eyeballs. It's the outside of class learning that goes on in college that more than 50% of what college is about.

And, since we're talking money, have you been to the bookstore yet? Your credit card might actually scream with that one.

Random Michelle K said...

1) WVU no longer mails grades *period*. It's all done through web access. Almost nothing is mailed to the students. Saved on paper and postage.

2) My aunt & uncle have had two kids in private colleges for the better part of the last ten years. They're down to one, and quite celebratory.

3) MWT, there's a solution to that I know a couple of people used --find a friend and get married. Married students to not have to report their parent's income.

ntsc said...

@ Janiece

Special case, normally I would agree with you, however he was/is a 'special' child/adult and it was advised against by professionals.

Also I had the most controling mother known to mankind, I will not do anything resembling her practices.

Janiece Murphy said...

NTSC, I wasn't trying to be critical - you have to make the decisions that are best for you and yours. I'm just saying that's not going to fly around here.

Anne C. said...

Middle class parents of undergrads are the ones who get it worst. They make enough that they're expected to get loans but not enough that these loans are easy to pay off. Especially if you want to put all three through college.

I had a bit of a shock when some prestigious schools I got into did not give me merit scholarships and barely any financial aid. My dad gave me the "sorry, but we're not taking out another mortgage" speech and I ended up going to a public school with a state sponsored merit scholarship. I turned out OK. (I did, briefly, go to a small local private college, since they jumped at the opportunity to give me a merit scholarship, but I ended up not liking it much.)

Grad school was all on me and I got student loans. Still paying them off, but the interest is way low.

Janiece Murphy said...

Anne, I think you're right. My Hot Cousin is attending college this fall, too, and her folks are in the exact situation you describe.

And yeah, graduate school (if any) will be entirely the Smart Twins' responsibility.

Eric said...

I'm with Steve on both the 51+% is outside of class and the going into mountains of debt. Aside from the student loans I'm paying off, I'm reasonably sure some of my credit card debt is still attributable to books and beer purchased nearly two decades ago.

Regrettably, I also have to agree with Steve about the bookstore. You ain't seen nothin' yet. Good news if you can find used ('tho you'll probably only save about 50%). Bad news if the Boy's taking classes that have a new course package every year. But you may know that from your own recent college experiences. Brutal stuff, college bookstore prices.

(That said, I sorta miss campus bookstores. A good campus bookstore comes off as kind of "the best of Borders" + "the best of your local indie shop" if you can get over some of the prices.)

MWT said...

Michelle: yeah, one of my high school classmates was trying to go that marriage route. She sent out a mass email to everyone in the class asking if anyone wanted to marry her for college tuition reasons. No idea if she found someone.

Heh, I wonder what the "family values" crowd has to say about stuff like that. ;)

We were at the bottom of middle class, I think. I had pell grants and subsidized loans. My sister managed to attend an expensive out-of-state private college for a year, I think, maybe just one semester, before she ran out of money and had to transfer back in-state to a public college. But she had a great time while she was out there.