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Funding kids college

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by glenlivet, Sep 12, 2020.

  1. glenlivet

    glenlivet Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 7, 2018
    So....things just got real, my oldest just applied to college, and I feel a little like a deer in the headlights.
    Me and the Mrs. have some $$ saved up for his education, but it definitely isn't enough.
    So I figured I start looking for grants/scholarships/etc... to see if there is anything out there for "the average guy" (I'm pretty average in every possible way....). We could probably pay for things, without to much pain and suffering...but....if there are opprotunities out there.... I'm definitely interested.
    I'm sure some (or many) of you have been-there-done-that...so what's your advise?
    Where do I start? what can I do?
    Aside from the obvious (save more $$ earlier).
    Selling guitars is off the table. I mean I love the kid and all....but....you know...:)
  2. '64 Tele

    '64 Tele Tele-Holic

    Mar 8, 2013
    NW Arkansas
    Kids can (and should) be expected to work some thru college, summer vacations, etc and help pay for their college.
    It gives them a "stake" in the outcome and helps them with time management.
    College shouldn't be a multi year paid vacation.
    I realize this sounds harsh and old school, but this comes from experience (first hand).
    While attending a professional school (pharmacy) I worked 30-40 hrs per week.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
  3. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 27, 2017
    Tampa Bay
    My two are recently finished. It ran about 20-25k a year for tuition and living expenses at the state university, so … maybe a second job? If there's a community college nearby you can save a boatload of money on the 1st two years (and get more academic help) by living at home and driving the parents crazy. The tradeoff is they miss out on the experience of living in a dorm and being in a community of 30,000+ kids from all over the country/world.

    University life is a magical time of being exposed to all kinds of culture and ideas that you'd never encounter in the hometown (for most of us at least) and I think that perspective is worth it. The thing I think you have to be the most careful about is them getting a degree they can make a living with. The are LOTS of young people out there saddled with 40k (or more) in student loans for a bachelor's degree that can't get a decent job.
  4. elihu

    elihu Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 24, 2009
    I've put 3 kids through college and the 3rd is in grad school now, so I'm putting off retirement for a year and a half to pay for that. Anyway, first thing I recommend is local community college to get the basics out of the way for cheap. Whatever degree plan they choose is going to require some sort of Math, English/Grammar, History/Government etc. Have them start with lower hours-say 10 or 12 per semester, live at home and work part time.
    Chief101, Rocky058, getbent and 3 others like this.
  5. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Feb 6, 2018
    Wilmington, DE
    Apply for financial aid. Do the FAFSA, all that. Financial aid is definitely available. Talk to the financial aid office at every school your child is applying to. Do every single thing they tell you, to maximize your chances. Expect it to be extremely complicated, because it is. Also take advantage of every resource provided by your high school guidance office. The whole process is very unpredictable, and sometimes makes no sense. The "sticker price" of a college doesn't mean anything - nobody pays that price. My first son applied to 4 schools. The amount of financial aid varied very widely between the four. The most expensive school turned out to cost the least out of pocket, because they gave far and away the most financial aid. We thought it would be too expensive and almost didn't apply. My second son goes to a state school, which is affordable.

    It can be very nerve wracking, because schools often want you to commit to going there BEFORE telling you how much financial aid you will get. If the student is exceptional, scholarship money can be provided, in additional to grants (which are mostly need-based), and loans (which need to repaid, of course). The whole process really can be very difficult, not to scare you but just so you are prepared. My wife is a lawyer, and she was literally reduced to tears on more than one occasion.

    Advice already given by others - look at state schools, community college - is correct.
  6. Cpb2020

    Cpb2020 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Aug 16, 2020
    New York
    +3, because I have three kids heading that direction (toward college - hopefully state) too. Undergrad for me was ~$300/yr in the early 90s so reality is hitting me particularly hard.
    glenlivet likes this.
  7. joe_cpwe

    joe_cpwe Tele-Holic

    Nov 27, 2017
    WI, USA
    I noticed you said "I start looking for grants/scholarships".
    Why would You do that? It's their responsibility.

    We have five kids, the fourth just started college. I will admit that Sr. year of High School for our first kid was much like you...asking ourselves how the heck does this work?! Don't worry, your kids and you will figure it out.

    Me and my wife both came from families that didn't help with college expenses, none at all in her case and just a little in my case.
    We told the kids we have a flat amount per year to help with tuition, for 4 years only. Unfortunately, it has had to be adjusted down slightly. For a kid living at home going to school, it's 2k per year and for a kid living away on campus is 4k per year. Any cost beyond that they need to figure out. (BTW..if each kid went away for 4 yrs that's 16k per kid, times 5....which is 80k)

    My oldest became an RA in his second year, worked, and had loans, that's how he made it through. He is now on 90% paid fellowship at Carnegie Melon and a 2nd yr grad student on his own, married.
    Our second moved home for yr 2 to attend a University within driving distance. Her first year was bad...partying, drugs, suicidal...you name it. Living at home and commuting worked better so we did help a little with getting a reliable car.
    Third one is away at school, making it work.
    Fourth is going to local community college, living at home for two years and then transferring to save money.

    Your household income/finances has an impact on grants & some scholarships. More kids in college affects that too. As example; our fourth kid is basically going for no out-of-pocket because of our income level + the other kids in college she is qualifying for Pell grants, a state grant, has a small scholarship, and is living at home. Room & board is big money at college
    The first two years our first kid went he was the only one so we and he were were coming up with more $$.

    When you do your taxes there is a credit that comes back. I think there's three of them, for parents claiming college students. One of them kicks back up to either $2000 or $2500. The other two are quite a bit less. You can only get one of them, and only for four years of school. I don't know how long those will keep going

    Our kids have had the expectation we set for them which is 1) you are 18, an adult 2) it's your decision & your responsibility 3) we are a help, a supplement only 4) it is not my responsibility 5) we recommend no working a job 1st year 1st semester but otherwise in Summer and the rest of the time...get working and make as much as you can so debt doesn't pile up.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
  8. joe_cpwe

    joe_cpwe Tele-Holic

    Nov 27, 2017
    WI, USA
    Yes, all true. Great post.
    glenlivet likes this.
  9. stormsedge

    stormsedge Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2012
    E. Tennessee, USA
    Avoid student loans or borrowing in any other form...that's my best advice.

    Many public school systems have guidance counselors specifically geared for helping kids navigate what needs to be done for college (my daughter-in-law does this in the next county). I'd start there. Go to the financial aid office at the selected university/college and inquire about scholarships...internet search them...etc. A great many scholarships go unused.

    Some states pay the first two years at a state community college or state university (TN does)...be sure to use that if available...the first two years get burned up in general studies for the most part anyway. In any event, stay in state...it minimizes expenses.

    I worked my way through college...with a wife and baby at the midpoint...48 hrs a week. It won't kill them.

    My daughter got a full ride based on her ACT scores alone...but you never know until you ask.

    My son got 1/2 tuition (for what I do not remember). But being a chip off the old blockhead, he lost it one year in. We continued to pay our 1/2...he worked to pay the rest. It didn't kill him.

    Mrs is using my VA...do not discount the benefits available from a stint in the military.

    Alternatively, consider technical training or OJT for a trade set instead of college. That will be where the cash and longevity is in the future IMO. As an example...look at the demand for and pay rates for welders, plumbers and electricians (good ones) right now.

    Happy hunting.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
    glenlivet and Deeve like this.
  10. Deeve

    Deeve Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Dec 7, 2009
    @joe_cpwe makes a good point about Who should have an active role in finding supplemental college support.

    That said, we started funding the sec 529 plan shortly after the adoption was complete, so by the time our daughter was 18, a good foundation had been prepared.

    Our kid did Her part; taking high-school seriously (much better than the slack-azz job I did at her age) but she did not get selected for a "presidential award" scholarship that would have made out like a lottery winner.
    She did, however, get into a good, state school, w/ "reasonable" tuition.
    Some private schools may make more generous offers to counter their heart-stopping list-prices.

    FAFSA - my rant: the algorithm favors applicants who have spent all their resources, in my opinion.
    It disfavors/penalizes living w/in your means, or g#d forbid, putting anything aside into savings.
    As a self-employed person, I have experienced very thin years, as well as some years when it felt like I had a tail-wind.
    As a result, Mrs Deeve and I have been frugal, compared to social buds who are financially over-extended (in our view).
    Their family did Very Well in the FAFSA process. YMMV

    Athletic scholarships arrive as often as giant meteors and platinum records. Plan accordingly for alternatives, if your "ship" doesn't "come in".

    Summer gigs - here's another place where we found no "right answer" within the FAFSA game.
    Our daughter found an unreasonably well-compensated gig as an intern @ a software company only to find the Hobson's choice regarding those earnings - spend the crazy good money for a hi-school kid, and get called profligate, or bank that cash, and get told "that's available for your next year @ school..." (no winning answer here - no earnings? "do you have no initiative?")

    From where I stand (truly fortunate in many ways - yes; I have a gratitude list to work on...) the FAFSA-based student aid is easier to harvest if you've had a hard time ever saving any "rainy day" money and if you've had a pay-check job w/ small numbers.

    Others - weigh in

    Peace - Deeve
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
  11. DaveG_NJ

    DaveG_NJ Tele-Meister

    Nov 13, 2019
    Hopefully the 4-year colleges will go the way of the dinosaur soon. There are better ways to spend $250,000 than on a liberal arts degree. All the bellyaching about "student loan debt" and no one asks the obvious question: Why does an "education" cost that much? Why aren't the schools under pressure to lower tuition, rather than make me pay someone else's kids loan? I put three through college, so I've been down this road. [/rant]

    Best advice other than "save more earlier" is given above. Seek out alternatives or alternate routes, especially in the case of a child who is unsure or worse, unmotivated. State schools are great and community college -- and now online -- are great alternatives.
  12. djh22

    djh22 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jan 12, 2012
    A good friend told his kids, "I can afford to send you to a school that starts with 'United States' - United States Naval Academy, United States Military Academy, United States Air Force Academy, United States Merchant Marine Academy, United States Coast Guard Academy."

    Community college is a cost-effective way to get the basics out of the way. Diplomas never mention where a student started their education.

    And when it comes to financial aid, leave no stone unturned. Many private schools have the resources that can make your costs similar to, or even less than, public, in-state schools.

    Good luck!
  13. drumtime

    drumtime Tele-Holic

    Mar 17, 2018
    the mountains of Virginia
    Consider suggesting that they wait a bit, and learn a trade in the interim.

    We never had enough money to pay for college for our kids. The oldest knew that somehow, even though we were ready to do whatever it would take. He also struggled in high school, largely due to undiagnosed dyslexia, so he was ready for a break.

    He figured out that, if he worked for some years, not only would he be able to put away some funds for college, but also, he would gain valuable working experience. He also figured out that, after the age of 26, he would no longer be considered our dependent, and any applications for financial aid would be figured on his income only, which was pretty low.

    Long story short, he went to undergraduate school and grad school for free, and did very well, also overcoming his dyslexia somehow. He found college very easy, because he was used to working 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. He had done any partying he was going to do already, and had done the romantic involvements thing as well.

    In the time between high school and college, he learned the building trades, and got his real estate license. After grad school, he got a great job with a large housing nonprofit as their principal real estate broker and general contractor. He gets to buy and sell houses, as well as rehab, design, and build them.
  14. charlie chitlin

    charlie chitlin Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 17, 2003
    FAFSA, baby.
    It's a nightmare.
    Get in early, the money is limited.
    And...whomever gives you money, you can be sure it'll be less the following year, and less the year after that.
    Once you're on the hook, they reel you in.
    Deeve and glenlivet like this.
  15. JJLC

    JJLC Tele-Holic

    Jan 20, 2014
    all I can suggest is don't have kids but it's too late now :lol: ............. good luck .......
    glenlivet likes this.
  16. raito

    raito Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 22, 2010
    Madison, WI
    Attempting to go to community college first is absolutely the worst decision you can make. Doing so cost me more than it saved, and ultimately was the reason I never finished a 4 year degree.

    Maybe they won't figure it out. I didn't figure out that colleges required applications until my mother got mad at me about not having done so. It never came up. My parents never said it. My school counselor people (otherwise quite good) never said it. My friends never said it. My teachers never said it. So how could I figure it out from no information at all?

    Pre-internet, so no just googling "How to get into college"? I had all I thought I needed: great grades, great test scores and more and varied extracurriculars that you could shake a stick at. At least that was all anyone said you needed.

    It didn't help that the local state university, at the time, took the top 15% of local HS graduates no matter what. So I figured I was in.

    I found out 25 years later that I could probably have done like a couple classmates and gone to MIT. Grades and test scores just as good. On the same math team. I had 3 more years electronics experience than them, though.

    As for looking for grants and scholarships, it may be worth it for the parent to make the plan and the student to execute it. One of my friends got something like The Big Book Of Scholarships in print a couple decades ago, and just started applying for all of them. A lot of them were pretty obscure and only a couple hundred bucks, but enough of them financed her through Carnegie-Mellon. Then she joined their soccer team and even though D3 doesn't have athletic scholarships, she suddenly found herself getting academic scholarships she hadn't even applied for.
    glenlivet likes this.
  17. ce24

    ce24 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 26, 2008
    Community college first two years. Online can be more expensive and it's really not an optimal educational option in my view as a retired teacher. Waiting tables is the perfect school job if you can get it. Paycheck for rent tips for pocket cash. I never considered room and board as college expense.... Gotta do that anyway, school or not, so tuition and books are the real expenses.... Good luck. I would wait until the covid weirdness is over.
    glenlivet likes this.
  18. erratick

    erratick Tele-Holic

    Feb 11, 2013

    Problem is when you and I went to school a summer job could make a dent in a tuition. Now many state school costs are 20-30K a year for tuition, room and board. That is not community college, but it isn't an a list private or public school either.

    A min wage full time job for a year won't even cover that. Making 5k or even 10k for a great job doesn't really get you very far at uni any more.

    I realize this sounds harsh, but this comes from first hand experience. I have two kids in college. While I was able to work my way through uni with jobs like bartending, lifeguarding, teaching swim lessons, working retail etc., it just isn't realistic anymore.

    It was 4% of a median income back in the day for a avg. public uni education, now it's 20% (or more).

    Source: University of Tennessee (mid tier public uni) costs:


    • UT tuition and fees: $13,006
    • Median U.S. household income: $63,179
    • Minimum wage: $7.25/hr ($14,500 annual)

    • UT tuition and fees: $867
    • Median U.S. household income: $20,170
    • Minimum wage: $3.35/hr ($6,700 annual)
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  19. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Super Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Admin Post
    I haven't read through all of the suggestions, but I'll add a few... so there may be some repeats here.

    (1) Talk to multiple school guidance counselors - both at your son's current high school, and at prospective colleges which he may be interested in. They will be able to offer very good advice in most cases. Consider the advice they give, even if you don't really care for it... or even believe it. At least keep it on the back burner.

    (2) If your son does not yet know very specifically what his vocational calling might be (or even if he does), it is often a smart idea to consider community colleges and "junior" colleges to get basics out of the way at a much less expensive rate. For example: Unless he's going to be an English major... it won't really matter where he takes English course. This is exactly what I did for two years, and even after I moved off to a four year university, I still came home one summer and took classes at the community college. You just have to map these things out, and not take classes in a hap-hazard chronology. Also, make sure that all credits will transfer before you take a class.

    (3) Apply for grants and scholarships that he may not even really seem to qualify for. Many scholarships go unfilled for multiple years (I know about this on a personal level, as I actively helped search for candidates to give a specific scholarship to for three years straight - we couldn't find anyone to take it). Some of these scholarship committees will lower the bar, or ignore a specific qualification or two... if they have no one that meets their criteria 100%. So... apply to everything anyway. "But this is for a chemistry major, and I'm an engineering major."..... apply anyway. They may grant it.

    (4) Volume is key. You have to make the application process a full-time job. You can't apply for four or five scholarships and call it a day.

    (5) Check the tuition rate policy at the perspective schools. Many schools have a rate per hour that goes up to 15 hours per semester... and anything over that can be done at no additional charge. If your son is up to the task... it may be better in the long run to take that additional "free" class at 18 hours total... rather than work extra hours to help pay for the 15 hours. The rationale is, he will complete the degree a semester or two ahead of schedule, and recoup the savings at that point... both in tuition expenses and living expenses. The goal is to start a career... the sooner he does, the sooner that the school expenses are over and he can begin earning a better salary (hopefully). I have a friend who did this for undergrad and finished a bachelors in communication in 3 years. Not all areas of study can be done this quickly though. i.e. I don't think you can speed up med school too much.
    glenlivet likes this.
  20. JRtele

    JRtele Tele-Meister

    May 23, 2020
    My parents didn’t have a lot of money and despite holding a job since 15 that was all blown on beer and cars.

    So I joined the military under our ROTP program (Canadian ROTC) and owed some service after graduating with a degree.

    I regret nothing.

    edit: now that I have two young sons and am investing in their RESPs so they have better options, a part of me appreciates the value and life lessons I learned from doing it on my own.
    Leonardocoate and glenlivet like this.
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