How important is it to pay for college?

July 22, 2007 | Uncategorized | 36 comments

I’ve enjoyed following yet another great thread over at Danielle Bean’s blog, where she asks readers to talk about how they afford to have more than one or two children on one income.

One thing that surprised me was how much of the discussion is focused on paying for children’s college education. If I’m understanding correctly, it seems that some of the commentors thought that not being able to afford to pay for all or most of college for additional children would constitute a serious reason to avoid pregnancy. (It’s quite possible that I did misunderstand what the writers on this particular thread were saying…but certainly that is a common notion in our society.)

Personally, I disagree with that — I’m biased, however, because I have the most amazing husband in the world, whose mother knew full well when she decided to get pregnant that there’s no way she’d ever be able to pay for him to go to college. 🙂 She ended up becoming a single mother and was so poor that they often couldn’t run the heat in the winter, so paying for even a single textbook was out of the question. He ended up getting an undergrad degree and two graduate degrees, all from Ivy League schools, so the student loan debt we’re paying off boggles the mind. He was able to get some scholarships and financial aid, but it didn’t even come close to covering the total cost. When we got married the debt we had on student loans was more than some people have on their house! To this day, it continues to be an albatross around our necks, especially since we’ve restructured our lives around stability and family instead of making more money. Our debt payment on the loan each month makes it really hard to get by, and it’s going to take us forever to pay it off. All that said, would it be better if my husband had never been born?

I understand wanting to do everything possible to help your children not begin their post-college lives under a mountain of debt. I also understand that certain dire financial concerns are surely “grave and serious reasons” to limit your family size. But is student loan debt so terrible that it outweighs the value of bringing a new life into the world?

I’ve made it clear what I think, but that’s just my $0.02. There’s no right or wrong answer to this one. What is your personal opinion on the issue?

36 Comments

  1. MY NAME IS SIMCHA.

    Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head. There is such a thing as being too prudent.

    The only way I can see college expenses as a reason not to have a child is if you know that worry and anxiety about it would ruin your health or home life or something. If that is so, then you have more than one problem that you need to work on.

    Besides, what if you do save up all the money for a child’s college, and then he dies in high school? Or doesn’t want or need to go to college? Or you end up desperately needing the money for something else? Too many variables, and too much at stake.

    Of course it’s never helpful to figure out if _other_ people have a sufficiently just reason to avoid pregnancy, but if people want to argue, I don’t see “college expenses” as a very formidable argument.

  2. yofed

    I find it simply ridiculous! My parents had only one child, me, and they could not afford paying college. I got debt, but at least I was motivated to go through it because I was the one spending money on my own education!!!

    I don’t expect all my children to go to college, who knows what they will want to do with their lives! Maybe my son will want to be an electrician like daddy, or a carpenter, all very nice jobs taht don’t require a degree!

    So you are saying some people SERIOUSLY avoid pregnancy because of worries about paying for college? That’s the most foolish thing I heard today!

  3. Milehimama

    First, let me say that worrying that I won’t be able to afford college for my children NOW is meaningless. We do not know what the future might hold – a million dollar idea? A lottery win? They’ll be geniuses and the colleges will PAY THEM to attend?
    Conversely, we are not guaranteed that our children will make it to college age and/or be accepted.

    My parents did not pay for any of our college educations. My sister was a National Merit scholar – and the school PAID HER a stipend to attend (plus room, board, books, and tuition). I went for a little while but dropped out – and paid cash for a semester, worked, paid cash, etc. Didn’t go to Harvard, obviously! But I did go to a respectable in-state 4 year college.

    My brother dropped out of a prestigious school to start his own business, and now employs several people – in fact he can’t keep up with demand.
    My other brother is becoming a plumber (now there’s job security! Everybody has a toilet!). Another sister is a mother, and an artist; one went into insurance sales without a college degree.
    None of us are homeless. None are without employment (well, ok, me. But I chose that, it’s not because I am unemployable!).

    I’m not planning to pay for any of my children’s college education either. We’ll see what the future holds.

    Not to mention, by the time a child reaches college age, generally they are NOT CHILDREN but are adults in their own right with their own responsibilities!

    The greatest heritage you can give a child is a sibling – not a college degree, not an estate, not a trust fund.

    Mama Says

  4. Melanie B

    As far as I’m concerned economic grave reasons have to do with being able to provide your family with necessities, not luxuries. And despite what many people say, college is not a necessity.

    It’s good to be prudent and plan for the future; but who knows what higher education will even look like in 17 years when my daughter would be ready to start. Maybe she won’t want to go to college. Maybe she’ll be able to get a scholarship. Maybe by that point a college degree won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

    During the time taught at a local state college, I often wondered about the quality of the education some of my students were getting. A college degree can mean a lot or very, very little depending on where its from and what classes the students took. Look at this article to see what I mean. In many places entertainment, not enlightenment is what’s driving the decisions about what classes to offer. If the trend continues, maybe there will be a reaction against college education or a genuine education reform.

    The bottom line is we don’t know what the future holds and we should trust God to provide what our children need. I think the best gift I can give my daughter is plenty of siblings to love her. I don’t know anyone who’d trade their brother or sister for a free ride to college. A warm family and a good education up to the college level are more important than a stockpile of money for a college education she may never want or need.

  5. Patrick

    This is a subject I have pondered at length. My conclusion is that most young people should not go to college in the first place. As others have noted, you can have a happy life and a successful career without a college degree. In fact it may be even happier and more successful if you skip college.

    The college experience, at least as it is now done in the U.S., is filled with moral risk and the financial payoff is questionable at best. I’ve blogged about it here and here.

    That being the case, the question of paying for college is totally irrelevant to family size. Make it clear to your kids from an early age that if they choose to go to college they will be paying for it themselves. Then it won’t matter if you have one child or ten.

  6. Sarah L.

    Taken to its logical conclusion… should the poor, or even middle class, not have any children because they can’t pay for college?

  7. Adoro te Devote

    Hi. Child of divorced parents, grew up with Mom, on welfare, etc.

    Went to a private college, mostly scholarships and grants and some help from extended family (only a little), worked my butt off for 4 years to pay for it, am still paying for it….and wouldn’t have done it any other way.

    What the grants didn’t cover, loans did.

    To suggest that college is even a FACTOR in pregnancy is completely ridiculous and what it really states is that if people think that is a factor with regard to whether they should have children, it is actually indicative of their true immaturity. They should not be having sex if “paying for children’s college” is a priority.

    Give me college or give me death!???? What?!

  8. Big Tex

    I’m the oldest of two. Both my parents worked. Catholic school educated for 13 years.

    Basically, my parents could afford to pay for my college education if they had wanted to, however they felt it prudent to leave that up to me. Loans and scholarships pay for college. So does a part time job.

    Now, my oldest is 4 and I really have no desire to pay for his education. Some may call it cruel, but there is a valuable lesson that I learned as well as my father learned: paying for your own education makes you appreciate it all the more.

    One thing I seem to recall, is that so-called poverty levels are dependent on the number of children you are raising. So, theoretically, one may be able to qualify for subsidized loans and grants if one has more siblings at home.

  9. Literacy-chic

    I do think that college is becoming a necessity of sorts, considering that a B.A. is a minimum requirement for a large number of jobs, though I agree that this is not a good thing since many young people are not ready for college as soon as they graduate, and many are not inclined at all, which is fine! However, it is really a luxury even to think in these terms, as many of the comments here already make clear. These are the perspectives of people who either had their parents pay for their own college, or resent the fact that their parents did NOT pay. There are many ways to pay for college these days, and extraordinary debt is not always the only way. My mother did not pay for my B.A.–she couldn’t have!!–but I only had a semesters’ worth of debt when I graduated, which was more because my son was born before I graduated and we needed the extra financial help student loans could provide. And in my experience, students who can appreciate their own responsibility for their educational expenses learn valuable lessons about responsibility and work harder to reach their goals, evaluate their own goals, and decide what to do with their lives without an unhealthy concern for providing a return on their parents’ investment–i.e. “My parents expect me to major in X so I can be a Q” or “My parents expect me to major in X so I can support them when they retire” or “My parents are paying for college, so I have to attend Z university.” I suppose it’s admirable to want to save your children from debt, but how far does that go and is it really the best way to provide for their futures? Well yes, if “future” is considered wholly in economic terms. Are similar arguments made about paying for 12 years of Catholic school? Perhaps the reaspn a consideration as distant as college seems so immediate is because all of the necessities and the luxuries of daily life are already covered. So perhaps the question is, why is the child still perceived as a financial liability,even when s/he is not? Why is everything reduced to economic terms?

  10. Literacy-chic

    So, theoretically, one may be able to qualify for subsidized loans and grants if one has more siblings at home.

    Not just theoretically. I filled out my FAFSA every year and marked $40,000 a year income (that was only the first year I was in college, and that was the highest our family income ever was or would be), with 2 college students (my mom was one) and 5 siblings. It certainly makes a difference.

  11. Veronica

    On this issue, I completely agree with you. I have never understood why being unable to give a child a free college education means you shouldn’t give the child life. That seems like some majorly skewed priorities.

  12. La gallina

    My parents didn’t pay for my college, and I was better off for it. I had grants, loans and jobs while my trust-fund buddies were stoned all day!

    I’m not too sure about college education. In college I learned that motherhood and religion were for LOSERS! As Patrick mentioned, there are a lot of moral downsides during the college experience.

    College is fine if you really have direction. You want to be an engineer or a marine biologist. But for those of us who were liberal arts, I don’t know…

    My husband used his college degree and had a really boring office job. Later he went into the painting contractor business and he loves it. There are so many opportunities out there without a college degree. Sometimes the degree seems to be a way to get pigeonholed into an office 9 to 5 situation, when there is a lot more out there.

  13. Literacy-chic

    I’m not too sure about college education. In college I learned that motherhood and religion were for LOSERS! As Patrick mentioned, there are a lot of moral downsides during the college experience.

    THAT’S where the parents come in. Can you reject the education wholesale because of skewed politics, etc.? A good educational foundation and confident personality, good values and an intelligent school selection can do a lot to counter whatever baggage comes along with the good stuff. Besides, it’s a good thing to add a little real diversity of opinion to the classroom! And we’re not all out to brainwash your kids!

  14. Anonymous

    I’m with Adoro on this one–I paid for college (plus grants and loans) and have a lot of debt and wouldn’t have it any other way. The concept of “saving for college” is really only for the middle class–the upper class can pay and the lower class couldn’t save enough to matter. So, it has become an unhealthy obsession of the middle class and it really defines their families. Children should always be encouraged to develop their God-given gifts to the fullest in school. If a child is doing that and he earns a scholarship, pack him up for college! If he can’t earn one on his own merits, he’s not college material. That said, I think all children should aim for college and all parents who can afford to help their children, should–that’s what families are for. That’s $0.02 from a girl who’s been in school accumulating debt long enough she’s gotten an Ivy League school to start paying her (God is very good ;)).

  15. mrsdarwin

    My parents couldn’t help me through college; and I’ll be paying off my loans for years. I took a year off after high school to work and save money for college. I got grants, and I took out loans. I worked all through school and every summer. Knowing that it was my money I was spending made me more prudent, and I was able to rearrange my schedule and go part-time my last semester.

    We’re not saving to put the kids through college, though if we can help out a bit when the time comes, we will. I’m not opposed to giving the kids a bit of a boost; I don’t love the amount of debt that I have.

    College is fine if you really have direction. You want to be an engineer or a marine biologist. But for those of us who were liberal arts, I don’t know…

    Well, perhaps that’s true if you’re taking a liberal arts degree because you don’t know what else to do. I think, however, that a getting a liberal arts education is one of the best reasons to go to college. So many degree tracks are simply glorified apprenticeships. A liberal arts education, on the other hand, hones your ability to think and reason, to read and write, and to encounter the world on a deeper level by drawing on the resources of great minds throughout history. As a homeschooling mother, my liberal arts education gives me a strong foundation to pass on to my children. That makes it worth the price.

  16. Anonymous

    I assume no ill will on the part of parents who want to limit family size based on ‘paying for college.’ The thought process may go something like this:

    I want my child to be happy.
    Being happy is an exterior thing, that can be ‘purchased’ by all the things promised to those who have higher education.
    Ergo, to make sure that my child will grow up happy I must provide her with a higher education at all costs.

    Principle #1: an authentic life
    I also want my child to be happy, but Jesus Christ teaches in Matthew 6 that if you seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness all these things shall be added unto you.

    Ergo, a motto of sorts for my homeschool is “love God, love each other and love learning.”

    It seems that there is a dearth of people of all ages who are joyful, authentic and hard working. So, whether in the field of academics or the workplace, anyone of any age going into the worldwith an ethos of joy, honesty and responsibility can almost not help getting along all right in this world. I don’t know how you pass on these marks without the primary mark of Baptism. I can’t.

    Principle #2: control

    As mentioned above, there is a marked lack of creativity in thinking that you are the only reliable source of funding for college. If the inflation rate of tuition stays on its current curve, you can’t plan for college at today’s rate, anyway — and you have your own retirement to think about, too!

    Though I’d be distressed to see my children accrue outrageous student loans to obtain a degree, I would absolutely be delighted to see all of them attend a school that is right for them.

    principle #3:
    This thread could also have a tag of “God’s Will” because the question I want my children to ask themselves is “what’s God’s will for me?” The canon of saints is most encouraging in this regard; people of all backgrounds can attain holiness. It’s called the “priesthood of believers.”

    One last thing: about ten years ago I read an article where a single mom had all three of her children attend college. When asked what her secret was, she said that beginning about 7th grade, she would take her kids to different college campuses over summer to give them a fell for what to expect, and how not all of them are the same, etc. It gave the kids goals.

    This made a big impression on me because even though my parents expected me to go to college, they didn’t do much in a concrete way to encourage us.

    As a parent, you can’t really control the escalating costs of a college degree, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can control, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that you must contracept (or use nfp heroically) to give your children happiness.

    CCC 2223 helps a lot in these discussions, too.

    Whimsy

  17. Anonymous

    Hi, Jennifer. I’m new to your blog, and enjoying every minute of it.
    I see nothing wrong with not paying for the college education of the children. However, they should be taught to live simply and without materialism. There’s so much extravagance in the world today.

  18. SteveG

    It seems to me that part of the problem is that childhood/adolescence now extends so far into what used to be considered adulthood that kids who graduate from high school are totally ill-prepared for the realities of adult life. In those cases (most?) college is nearly a requirement to get them ready, whereas in previous generations, that was not so.

    As MrsDarwin mentioned, other than a liberal arts education, too many degrees are now really glorified apprenticeships. Problem is that most kids need those apprenticeships to be even remotely ready to handle the responsibility of getting a job and supporting/caring for themselves.

    With those factors as a backdrop I think there are actually two answers to this depending on how we raise our kids.

    If we raise our kids in the common mode which keeps them fairly immature and irresponsible by the time they graduate from high school, then we’d better be ready and willing to pay for a college education.

    If on the other hand, we teach them responsibility and help them mature to a point that when they are 18 they actually can be called young adults, then we can help if we are able (and if they want to go) but it would seem far from a necessity in that case.

    Beyond all that, I think we should be teaching our kids that whatever their choice in this regards, they should be avoiding debt like the plague. As Dave Ramsey is fond of pointing out, scripture tells us that he borrower is the slave of the lender. Unfortunately, I bet that most of us know the truth of that from personal experience.

    Whether it means choosing a local inexpensive state school over the school of their dreams, or living at home instead of a dorm and foregoing the ‘college experience’ (which probably be a guard against the moral dangers as well), or going to school part time and working part time, if they do go to college, they should be avoiding debt as much as humanly possible.

  19. Sarahndipity

    I agree with literacy-chic that a bachelor’s degree is almost the bare minimum requirement for a job these days. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

    Here’s something to think about: I want my kids to be able to have a large family and to live on one income if they so choose (which they hopefully will if we raise them well). Having a huge debt from college loans will severely hinder their ability to do that. Somebody once said that “A good society is one in which it is easy to be good.” (Sorry, don’t remember who). I think our society makes it extremely hard for people to follow Church teaching when it comes to marriage and family. Paying for my kids’ college education will make it easier for them to follow Church teaching.

    My husband and I are going to try to pay for college for all our kids, however many we have (in-state schools only). We already started saving for our 3-year-old. I don’t think not being able to pay for college is necessarily a good reason not to have another kid; after all, you don’t have a crystal ball. You don’t know what your financial situation will be when it’s time for your kids to start college, no matter how much you plan. It’s also possible that your kids will get a scholarship or financial aid. One of my friends started a job with the federal government that is paying off all her student loans. So that’s an option as well.

    We both had parents who paid for our entire (in-state) college educations. I guess I would feel guilty about not giving our kids something I had. We are also both extremely debt-averse. Our only debt is our mortgage. But like I said, you just can’t know what the future holds. Which drives me nuts because I’m a control freak. 🙂 But that’s the way it is.

    I guess I’ll have to think about this issue more and talk it over with my husband. I’m still working out my views on this.

  20. Sarahndipity

    I think Steve G. hit the nail on the head. I was definetly not raised to be an adult by the time I was 18.

    As far as the “college experience” goes – I agree that there are moral dangers on a lot of college campuses. On the other hand, I went to a small liberal arts college with no frats or sororities. It was public but had an outstanding Catholic student group, which I was very involved in. There were parties, but I never went to any. I had no interest in getting drunk. My parents may not have raised me to be an adult at 18, but they did raise me with good morals. I already knew I wasn’t going to get drunk or have sex. I had a great “college experience” without those things. I met my husband there. I am very, very glad I went to college and had such a great experience. And yes, I would feel bad depriving my kids of a similar experience. They’ll have enough time when they’ll have to be adults. The “college experience” doesn’t have to involve debauchery.

  21. Megan Elizabeth

    I’m going to a private college, and my parents are giving me some help. Yet if I were given the choice, I would rather have half a dozen siblings and have to work my own way through college.

    I’m trying to keep student loans to a minimun. Once I graduate and get my loans paid off, hopefully I will get married and have a shoeful of kids. (How many is a shoeful? Just think of the little woman who lived in one…)I would certainly help them with their college if possible, but I wouldn’t consider the college fund a grave reason to avoid pregnancy. This is colored by my own experience of being 1 of 2 and really wishing that I would have had to share my room.

  22. Sarahndipity

    Megan Elizabeth, I also had only one sibling and always wished I had more. I’ve always been fascinated with big families. Although I was also glad I had my own room. 🙂

  23. majellamom

    Oh, how I love giving my personal opinion!

    Well, my thought on the whole college issue is that college is OPTIONAL! Some kids may do better NOT going to college, getting some tech training instead, or delaying college.

    Not a popular thought, I know…but college was such a HUGE demand in my family. You went to college…end of story! My brother flunked out of two different colleges and never recieved a degree. He would have probably been better off getting some sort of technical training. He didn’t flunk out because he was stupid…he’s actually very smart…but lazy, particularly about things that don’t interest him.

    As for me, I did very well in college, and even did a little grad school (thinking I wanted to be a college professor!) Our student loans all came from grad school, and we finally paid them off this month! Now, I am glad that I went to the college I went to, because I found my faith and met my hubby there…it was also free because my dad worked for the school.

    If I had had my choice, rather than being forced into college, I would have moved states, worked for a few years and attended a community college to learn musical instrument repair. Not something you learn at a traditional college.

    We have an ESA for our older daughter. We are saving up enough to start one for our younger daughter. We will probably never be able to contribute the whole $2000 a year that is allowed. At this point, we can put away about $50 per kid per month. When we have more kids, this will likely drop down.

    Our thought is that we will do as much as we can (including starting saving now!) so that our kids have options…however, they will most likely have to work through school to help pay for it, and they will probably have to make some sacrafices as to what schools they will be able to attend because of finances. We are not counting on scholarships, but will explain to our kids that applying for scholarships will be important if they want to go the traditional 4 year college route.

  24. Darwin

    I had a certain degree of help in the form of some money that my grandparents had left me, but that amounted to maybe 1.5 years worth of tuition.

    We’ll make an effort to save a bit for the kids college educations, but I would never think of a “need” to pay for the whole thing as a factor in family size. Frankly, I’m not sure I would do that if I could. I think it should be incumbant on students to win merit-based scholarship and/or work in order to get through college. (And take loans as well if necessary.)

    Having it simply handed to you seems like it would decrease the seriousness with which one take the whole thing.

  25. m_david

    I generally agree with Patrick.

    Several points:

    1) For most students, the university is a scam, with the Boomer generation creating a bunch of indentured servants. Kids are foolish to fall for it.

    2) Most students don’t even know their basics (and this includes Ivy). They should postpone until they can get a very good score on the SAT, a good test of potential.

    3) If one is going to go to university, they should know exactly what they indend to do with it and how it will pay itself off. This is especially true of Ivy level. One can get their own education on their own…a university is just a piece of paper.

    4) Ivy is a waste of cash unless you are going into a 50 year payoff plan, and are a serious career guy. There are plenty of state U’s out there that get the paper and the good job; in 10 years nobody will know where you went.

    5) Homeschooling has allowed many students to have 2 years of college free before they turn 18. I intend all my kids (6 so far) to be taking college courses by age 15, and we are on track. If university is “required”, might as well get it done by 18 or so. Also, scholarships are easy for homeschoolers who should excel.

    6) There is nothing wrong with being a plumber or mechanic or builder – if I have a kid who is not the book kind (none so far yet, but I’m ready) I will have no problem getting him set up in his own business in a trade. You can make very good money out there without a degree. Education is not for all.

  26. cjmr

    There is no way we’ll be able to pay all the costs for our children to go to college. Even with just two of them (so far). Both my husband and I paid for college with some money from our parents, some we earned in the summers, and a mix of loans and scholarships. We expect our kids will do the same, if they choose to go to college.

    We have been saving money for them since before they were born, but we aren’t going to require that that money be used for college. We actually started saving for the oldest child as a result of repaying our student loans. We paid off husband’s loan when I was pregnant with #1, and used that money each month to fund A’s savings. Coincidentally, five years later I was pregnant with #2 and finished paying off my student loan, so we did the same with that money for M. We’re done paying off loans, though, so I’ll have to get more creative to fund savings for any future children.

    (I’m not, however, starting a savings account now in order to finance a $30K wedding for my daughter. But that’s some other comments thread, I’m sure.)

  27. Jennifer F.

    Sarahndipity –

    Here’s something to think about: I want my kids to be able to have a large family and to live on one income if they so choose (which they hopefully will if we raise them well). Having a huge debt from college loans will severely hinder their ability to do that.

    Definitely! It’s hard for me not to fantasize about how much easier it would be for us if we didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars towards his student loans each month. Especially that I have no idea when we’ll be able to pay these things off, it makes the prospect of having a large family so daunting!

    And not only that, but it makes it really, really hard to get off of a money-chasing career track. When my husband and I first met his student loans weren’t a huge concern because he was on a career path that would have meant a big salary…but would have also meant tons of travel, moving every few years, long hours, not to mention being surrounded by a money- and status-driven work environment. We decided that that was not the right path for us, that we wanted to put family first. That would have been an easy decision if not for the student loans. They made it *very* tempting to have him stay on that more lucrative path, even at the expense of putting our family first. Having that debt makes it so alluring to put the pursuit of wealth before everything else. I really think that it’s only through God’s grace that we were able to walk away from it all. …And we’re so glad we did! As tough as it is to make big salary sacrifices with the weight of the student loans upon us, our lives are so wonderful, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Anyway, all that is to say that I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that it’s a concern. That said, I really believe that if it’s God’s will that your children have big families they’ll find a way to make it work, even if you aren’t able to provide for their college education. 🙂

  28. CatholicInTheAcademy

    I definitely understand people’s concerns that colleges are hotbeds of immoral behavior–that is very true for most colleges in general. But the entire world is a hotbed of immoral behavior and college students can make the same choices we make to opt out. Hopefully we can prepare our children to face temptation and turn away, toward positive friendships and activities.

    The presence of sin or of potential sin does not negate the benefits of a good liberal arts education, which should teach students logic, how to reason and evaluate different arguments and make important decisions for themselves, as well as how to write well and express themselves clearly. If students are well prepared going in to college, they can reap the intellectual benefits and hopefully avoid the moral pitfalls.

    On another note, I’m from a family of 4 and often think what it would be like to have more siblings. That my parents would be able to pay for our college would have been an impossible dream for them when they had us–my dad was a factory foreman and my mom worked in the factory’s office. My dad kept rising in his company until he reached a point at which he could not be promoted without a college degree and at which he was unfulfilled personally. He has a great mind and was not able to put it to work because he had to go to work right after high school to make ends meet for him and his mother and sister. Luckily my mom supported him (emotionally–she was at home with my brother and me) and he went through 8 grueling years of full-time work and night school to finish college when I was a little girl. Anyway, to make a long story short, he’s light-years from where he was when I was born and was able to pay for my college and my brother’s (we kicked in by providing half of the $ in merit scholarships and by choosing a school that did give us $, rather than our dream schools).

    My parent’s paying for our college was a blessing for both of us. We were able to avoid the strain my dad (and mom) endured for so many years–we can be home with our kids to eat dinner, not be rushing off to night school. It allowed us the freedom to pursue less-than-lucrative careers–we are both in liberal arts PhD programs. If we had mountains of student debt, we would never have been able to spend 6 years living on graduate stipends that leave my brother eligible for food stamps and me not much better off. My husband’s enormous debt from undergraduate and from medical school (FYI, medical and law schools expect a “parental contribution” whether the student is single, married, 23 or 40–what a joke) is daunting, to say the least. It will probably mean me working for a bit longer than I’d like, since residents and fellows spend another 3-9 years working long hours for mediocre pay.

    I hope to pay for at least part of my children’s college, if they choose to go. Money or lack of same will not stop me from having kids, but they’ll definitely be getting saving bonds as gifts from me to use toward college, a downpayment on a house, or whatever they need later in life.

  29. Stephanie

    I agree with you. My husband and I, while we didn’t go to Ivy league schools, worked our way through college at a good state school and came out on the other side with no debt. He worked overnight, I worked 2 jobs, but in the end it was worth it.

    My thinking is, if we could do it, our children can. Now I’ll certainly help our future kids financially if we can, but I wouldn’t decide whether or not to have children based on college costs. Especially not with having had to deal with the cross of infertility…it’s easy to forget what a precious gift children are and think only of the “burden” they might be. It’s a burden I’d give anything to have.

  30. Jeannine

    This is a really interesting bunch of comments!
    I can’t resist putting in my two cents’ worth.
    My husband and I have four children. (One is a regular reader of this blog!) When our oldest reached college age, I asked my mother, “How are we going to pay for college for four kids?” She just said that somehow we would find a way, and we have. Three of the four have now graduated and the fourth will be a junior this year. We could never afford to save large amounts “for college.” We made it through by living simply and frugally. The kids got aid, scholarships, summer jobs, work-study jobs, and loans. We picked up the rest. When we prayed for help to make it, God answered our prayers with just enough to manage.
    Just one practical thing to point out–not all colleges cost the same. You can get a very good education from an inexpensive school. Personally, I think the Ivy League schools are grossly overrated and coasting on their reputations. I suggest that parents of college-age students look at several colleges and see who offers the best deal. And don’t forget community colleges. They are accredited, just like the four-year institutions, and they are far less expensive.

  31. Daisy

    I agree that it is not a reason to postpone pregnancy, but the description of an albatross is quite accurate. My husband took out many loans for his undergraduate and graduate degrees, and we also have an amazing amount of student loan debt. I have no idea how long it would take us if we were to put every available penny toward it. It’s not first priority debt. But I want to curse every time I make the payment. It is literally the difference between me staying home and having to work. I don’t work full time, and my children aren’t in day care, so every penny I make is to make progress on debt, and that account still seems insurmountable. Ugh.

    We don’t plan on paying for a college education for our children. But all of their birthday money and any unplanned income (i.e. rebates on things we buy anyway, dividend checks) goes into their savings account (controlled by me until they are 18). I also plan to be very frank with my children about whether a college degree is even needed. I know so many people who are miles ahead of anyone I knew in college with a high school education or less.

  32. Elena

    Seems to me Jen I had a heated discussion on your blog on this topic last year!

    I can’t pay for my kids’ college. We put all our eggs into my husband’s business basket, and we’re hoping that eventually pays off. I can give my kids room and board while they attend a university close to home. I can help my younger kids get credit through CLEP, AP classes, and getting free credit as high school students.

    I can teach them to study and work hard. The rest is up to them.

    They do however have a housefull of siblings that they love, play with, talk to and share companionship with. They enjoy each other’s company and I think that’s worth a lot too.

    I will say though that my sister works for a big company in the human relations department. She has interviewed many candidates. She says the best employees are the ones that did it themselves without the parent handout. I take a lot of comfort in that.

    BTW, I paid my way through Jr. College and got a job skill tht has served me well for almost 30 years.

  33. Elena

    Found the discussion from 2006
    here.

  34. Jeannine

    Can I add one more thing?

    Young people who are very intelligent and intellectually curious should be encouraged and helped to go to college. We don’t want them to waste talents that they have been given by God. If the talent is for construction or electrical work, the child should go to trade school. If the talent is for writing, thinking, or scientific work, then the child should go to college. Let children develop their gifts!

    Then think carefully about what kind of college your child should attend. There are some fine Catholic colleges, such as Christendom College and Franciscan University of Steubenville. And remember that community colleges are an inexpensive way to attain a two-year degree.

    College expenses are definitely not a reason to avoid pregnancy, but parents should not just say that college is the child’s problem or that it’s always worthless. Most 18-year-olds can’t totally support themselves, let alone completely pay for a college degree. I think that parents should help as much as possible, within the limits of their own means. Keep in mind that the government (which unfortunately has a lot to do with financial aid) counts the parents’ income with the child’s when the child is 18, whether the parents are willing to help out or not. Of course, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) also takes into account the number of children in the family, so children from bigger families are likely to receive more aid!

    Finally, I see a lot of people in their 20’s, 30’s, and older coming back to college to improve their skills so they can get better jobs. (I teach at a community college.) Yes, you can do this, but it’s very hard–most of these students have families and jobs. It’s much, much easier to get a college education at the traditional age. A child who is motivated and has a good work ethic will really benefit from his or her college education.

    Sorry–that was four things!

  35. Elena

    Here are two boys that graduated in an unconvential way almost debt free!

  36. John

    Jennifer, what are your thoughts on loaning items to friends and expecting them back? Is this a good practice or not?

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