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To borrow or not to borrow… February 6, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, older son.
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Some of you may remember that, about a year ago, I took the boys on a big tour of colleges.  I wanted the older boy to see what his options were and make an informed decision when it came to college.  (I have to admit that this was a result of the fact that I only was able to visit one college before choosing, and I felt like I would have made a better choice if I’d been able to see others.)  The older boy surprised me when, late last year, he informed me of his decision to live at home and go to college locally.

To be rather blunt, I was disappointed.  I felt like he could go to a much better college if he chose.  However, he said that he was nervous about starting college and moving out and basically jumping from being a high schooler to an adult all at once.  I was surprised at this, but it really did make sense.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to try to force him to go someplace else for school.

(I was also amused because, when I was his age, I deliberately chose to apply to colleges that were as far away from home as physically possible.  This is how one goes from North Dakota to Los Angeles.)

I’m now even more convinced that this is a good decision.  The older boy started a part-time job.  We sat down and ran the numbers and determined that his income from the job would pay about half of his tuition and give him some spending money.  Because of the hours, he can also work another job over the summer and probably make up the difference in tuition costs.

Finally, he will likely start as a sophomore because of all of the college credit he has earned or will earn through CLEP exams.

Based on this, he can likely get through school in three years and come out potentially debt-free because he will be able to pay his tuition himself.  When I look at how much he would have had to go into debt to earn his degree at the other schools we looked at, I have to admit that this is a pretty intelligent way to go.

The one reservation I had about this is that I felt like he needed to get out of the house.  I don’t want to stifle him by living at home all through college.  As I was pondering this toward the end of the semester, I had a speaker come to my class and discuss the study abroad program at the school.  I was surprised at how affordable the program is.  I brought a brochure home for older son, and we discussed it.  Rather than transferring to another school later, like he initially thought, he’s going to try to go abroad once or twice.  That way he can get the experience of not only visiting another school but another country.  Even with this, he can still probably get through school without any debt.

I’m surprised how much the financial aspect of this has changed my perspective.  Maybe because I and other people I know are still paying off student loans.  I’m curious what my readers would say to their kids if they were facing the same choice.

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Comments»

1. Anandi Raman Creath - February 6, 2014

I understand your disappointment, but OMG, how amazing is it that he’s THAT self-aware at his age? I loved college, but the first two years were a hard adjustment.

2. Johnathan Ness - February 6, 2014

I think your son is making a very wise decision. Graduating debt free is the way to go. I’m sure your son has also looked into scholarships and everything, but if he would like more tips on how to pay for college, please tell him to check out my blog: http://lessonsinpersonalfinance.com/. There are a lot of good ideas under the college tab, as well as knowledge that will give him a jump start on post-college money management.
I wish him all the best with his education goals!

3. nicoleandmaggie - February 6, 2014

We’re going to worry about these things when the time comes. Most likely they’ll stay at home and pick up college credits here before going off to “real” college. We have a lot saved in the 529 already so that monetary considerations shouldn’t matter for us. I think if we lived in the midwest I’d feel much more amenable to him doing his entire time in a local state school, but the undergraduate education at this R1 flagship is so much worse than at a directional Midwestern R2, that I don’t think he’d get a real college experience with 4 years here. It’s really more like high school.

mareserinitatis - February 9, 2014

The older boy and I talked about a couple R1s. There was one we both liked, but they were very ornery about the homeschooling thing. Other than that, I said they are generally big and impersonal, and I really feel like he wouldn’t do well in that environment. I guess I felt like my experiences here have been mostly positive and feel like it’ll work out. I think a liberal arts college may be better for him, but OMG the cost.

4. Nicole G - February 6, 2014

I think that is an excellent plan. Maybe in a year or two he can find an efficiency apartment nearby to ease the transition. In the mean time, staying at home saves money for those who can do it. Tuition plus food and lodging gets really expensive and living independently takes more time for cleaning, cooking, etc.

5. Astronomommy - February 7, 2014

I started out at a private university away from home and then finished locally, staying at home, where I wasn’t racking up debt. It had its moments of stifling, but wasn’t that bad. I didn’t enjoy dorm life overmuch…

mareserinitatis - February 9, 2014

Dorms. Blech. :-)


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