Answering the questions of “should I pay for my child to go to college?” is a daunting task, but it should always be dictated by your personal and financial situation. Did you set up a college savings fund for your child when they were a baby? Did you not save a dime for your child’s education? Are the grandparents going to help with paying for college? The answer to these questions will help determine where your child should be attending college and if you’ll be paying for it. The decision brings with it a lot of emotions on your part and the part of the child. Your child will have their mind made up about where they want to go, but if you’re paying for it, you have the final say. Here are a few things to consider.
Don’t feel bad about not paying for their college education
Going to college is not mandatory for every child, and if you can’t afford to pay for it, the responsibility is shifted to the “child” who is not so much a child anymore. In our society, it is so taboo to think that paying for our children’s higher education isn’t our responsibility. But seriously, you gave them a roof over their head for 18 years with a full stomach, and you gave them every opportunity to succeed in high school. Don’t go into debt to pay for your child’s higher education.
Don’t Let Your Child Make The Decision
Guide your child to making the right decision. Don’t tell them it’s not up to them, but rather, participate in the decision making process. Most seniors in high school look at prestige, where their friends are going, and location of the school as determining factors. They rarely think about whether or not they can afford the school they want to attend. If you’ve bene diligent in saving for your child’s education, don’t let them burn through all of the money in two years just because they wanted to attend a private school. If you have enough money saved to pay for the $40,000 a year, then go for it, but if not, look at other options.
Going to community college for two years isn’t the end of the world
Many seniors think of themselves as losers for going to community college the first two years, but I still wish that I had gone this route. I would have saved myself $12,000 if I had stayed at home the first two years. The college experience is great, and I have dozens of good friends from college that I still keep up with. Some of my most favorite memories were made at UF, but your child can still experience that their junior and senior year. The dirty little secret that many universities don’t tell you is that the core classes you’ll be taking your first two years are exactly the same as they are in community college. You really don’t start taking classes for your major until your junior and senior year.
Should I co-sign on a student loan for my child?
The answer is flat out, “NO”. Why would you co-sign for someone who is broke and will be broke for a few years after they get out of school? I know you want to help them, but it’s just too risky.
The bottom line is that you can’t go back and mend your mistakes of not saving for college by getting into a bunch of debt to pay for your child’s education now. If they choose to go to a school that they can’t afford against your wishes, then that is their choice.
Where I am coming from on this issue
I spent my first three semesters at Toccoa Falls College, a private, Christian college in Northeast Georgia. The tuition was about $4,500 a semester, and the room and board was another $2,500 per semester. My parents had nothing to give me, and my grandmother left me about $2,500 in a mutual fund. I could not afford this school, but I was too dumb to realize it, and no one told me not to go. They were excited that I was going to a Christian school and playing basketball, and so was I. About a year later, I saw the money flying out the door and the student loans I was accumulating. My credit card bill got bigger and bigger, because I wasn’t working enough to pay for books and other living expenses. So, I left Toccoa, went back home and started community college. Then, I moved to Gainesville, finished my A.A. at Santa Fe Community College, and I was immediately accepted into the University of Florida. On top of the florida scholarships and grants, I was getting money BACK from the school with all of my tuition and books paid for. I had already accumulated $12,000 in loans, but I had stopped the bleeding. Don’t let your child make a big mistake and end up with mounds of student loan debt. It’s not worth it for your undergraduate degree. Community colleges and state universities provide great educations. Be the voice to your child that I didn’t have when I was making my college decision.