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Old 02-28-2014, 08:07 AM   #41
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Paying for college can be a controversial subject, and the following is what we personally have decided to do and is in no way intended as judgement on others' plans.

I paid my own way through school, living in an apartment since parents moved into an RV full time and retired when I left the nest. Missed a lot of what I consider to be valuable networking time by not living on campus, grew up way too fast, took me much longer than if it had been funded, particularly having to pay for an expensive Boston apartment. (Would have moved to a lower COL for college had I understood that concept.) Was saddled with a ton of debt that required me to head for the highest paycheck right away, indeed starting work the day after my last final.

I want more for my kids. We are going to be retiring early, leaving the workforce when Youngest graduates high school. Will be downsizing, but have made it very clear they will always have a home base. Are paying for their undergrad as long as they maintain a 3.0 GPA. No 3.0 and they will have a debt to us to repay the $$ spent, which will be forgiven if they graduate with a 3.0 avg GPA. Because of our income and savings, kids don't even qualify for deferred loans. We didn't feel it fair to impose their need to pay for school when no tools to do so. We have made it clear that our paying for their college is their inheritance...don't blow it. Have resisted telling them what to major in, though have used influence to guide them towards better paying degrees, particularly for Youngest who at first wanted to major in music, but now thinking engineering of some sort with a music minor. Insist on a school that views an intern/coop experience important, which has already resulted in a well paying gig for Eldest after his Freshman year, making $1,000/week. They get to keep that money for their expenses, to fund their Roth, and to save the nest egg they will need post college for car/apartment/etc. We pay tuition/room and board, all other expenses on them...clothing, toiletries, fun stuff, books, you name it. We do still pay medical/insurance costs, but car insurance up to them.

Eldest chose the public school route because that was one of the top schools for the degree he wanted to pursue. Unfortunately, we don't live in that state, so we pay close to 3X what in state pays for tuition. Net result $40K+/year. Encouraging him to take as many semesters abroad as makes sense in pursuit of his degree. We are charged in state rates when he studies overseas, semesters that are still taught by his schools profs. Actually hoping Youngest want to go there too...it is on his list...in which case we will buy/rent a place in that state to set up residency and decrease costs by about half. This will work for this school, though will have to pay full price for first year. Other schools may vary, but if he chooses a state school in a different state we will examine those schools too.

We are looking at keeping our taxable income under $50K, (retiring when Youngest graduates high school,) which might allow us to file the Simplified Needs Test with Fafsa that ignores assets in determining EFC, (Effective Family Contribution.) FinAid | FinAid for Educators and FAAs | Simplified Needs Test Chart Not sure how to get around the cap gains/sched D requirement, or what that will give us, and am more curious to see how it goes rather than depending on it. May simply decide against the hassle, particularly if getting in state tuition rates, and spend those years maxing out Roth Conversions for low tax bracket. Note that some private schools have their own method for determining EFC, not completely depending on the FAFSA.

OK, that was way too much. I try to think outside of the box while resisting letting the tuition tail wag the dog.
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Old 02-28-2014, 09:00 AM   #42
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When our two were born we were clear that our obligation included preparing them for life educationally as well as physically and so forth (that is being good parents). That meant that we moved to the suburb with the top rated educational system in the metro area, which meant that we lived very frugally in a small house in the rich man's town. Fine.

DD was first. She shopped for upper rank (think 40-80 place on the national college ranks rather than 1-40). Based on her record she looked like a very good candidate was easily accepted to several she liked and negociated between them for the best deal. We paid around $10k per year for housing, incidentals and all the rest of it. For her part she graduated Summa, Phi Beta Kappa. That is she got the message. She is now married to a PhD chemist, appropriate house with a graduate degree of her own and a solid profession she enjoys.

DS always wanted to have a job during HS. We would not allow it, his job was resume building, get thte best grades you can get, dig into your interests and learn to excell. He did, went to college rated 10 on the national scale, and did and ROTC scholarship which covered all tuition and books and paid a stipend. His college gives free tuition to ROTC scholarship holders. Plus he had a job with a college "consulting firm" so he graduated cash positive. He also was Summa, Phi Beta Kappa. He is close to being done with his commitment to the Army and will go to grad school in 2015.

Bottom line, best possible elementary and HS preparation led to best possible college which led to excellent outcome. Our total outlay, around $50k. Plus as a family we had a superior experience living with the rich guys paying most of the tab (they pay most of the property tax in our town).
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Old 02-28-2014, 09:34 AM   #43
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Got three kids and not paying for their advanced schooling. My parents each paid their own way and I did too. Most of my relatives as well. It's simply the independent work ethic we were raised with.

I just don't buy into this belief that parents should pay for their kids college years.
It is just a matter of perspective and one's background .

My parents were immigrants without any college when they came to the U.S. (my mother did not get her high school equivalency until after all her kids got their college degrees), but in their view education was the "great equalizer" for opportunities. They sacrificed financially to see that we got the best educations we could achieve. Seeing their sacrifice made my siblings and I want to make the best of the education opportunity, and that motivated us towards our accomplishments.

We have continued to try to instill this in our children, although it is different when they haven't directly experienced the difficult times growing that we did. Some adjustment is required in what we do and what we expect from them, to make them not take things for granted. It has worked for our kids, but for some has taken longer than others to understand this (they had to go through their own "difficult times" to see this).
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Old 02-28-2014, 09:52 AM   #44
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I just want to commend all of you who have made it possible for your children to complete a college education. You are exceptional parents... congratulations.

I wouldn't consider mine and Ex's payments 100% altruistic in nature. I believe DD would be perfectly happy to stay at either parents house the rest of her life and be taken care of. Kicking her out to go to college and paying for it, seems a potentially cheaper proposition than the former.
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Old 02-28-2014, 10:02 AM   #45
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Back in 1981 when DD (33 yo) was an infant, I emptied the plaster of paris coin bank that was shaped like a cat and walked down the street with the change and bought her a $25 savings bond. A few years later I started paycheck purchases of savings bonds starting at $50/month and working up to $150/month.
When I started saving for DS1 (28 yo), I opened UGMA mutual fund accounts for each DD and DS1 and continued paycheck savings for each of them.

I saved enough for 2 years community college and 2 years state university. When it came time for DD to start she and I went to the bank and spent over an hour signing and cashing in the huge stack of savings bonds.

DD and DS1 both went to community college for several years. DD went to state university for a year or two. Neither finished with a degree. I made it clear that when their money ran out they were on their own for paying for education.

Flash forward to DS2 (17 yo) and DS3 (10 yo). Plan to use 401k money to fund their college. Never put a dime in their names. If it looks like they are not succeeding in college, funding gets cut off. (so I say, probably).

I expect DS3 to be successful in college but I am not sure about DS2 since he is struggling with high school.

The responsibility I took on was to pay for 2 years community college and 2 years state university. Anything beyond that I expect them to fund somehow.

I had an intense discussion one time with a man from Lebanon. He feels obligated to fund his daughters' undergraduate and graduate level educations up to the doctorate level. He called me a bad parent for not doing the same. He explained that from his culture, if you were successful financially, you were obligated to do such, regardless of the consequences for his own financial future. He also had 75% of his 401k in company stock. I wished him well.
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Old 02-28-2014, 10:14 AM   #46
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I wouldn't consider mine and Ex's payments 100% altruistic in nature. I believe DD would be perfectly happy to stay at either parents house the rest of her life and be taken care of. Kicking her out to go to college and paying for it, seems a potentially cheaper proposition than the former.
A good move, but based on my experiences, return appearances for lengthy periods happened. Not because of lack of education, but because of divorces..... Always keep a spare bedroom furnished (or maybe more than one).
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Old 02-28-2014, 01:39 PM   #47
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I appreciate all the responses.

Some of them surprise me.

For example, my wife and I (she works half time) make right on $90,000 a year, and we qualify for HUGE financial aid provided by the schools we are looking at for our now HS junior daughter (we also have an 8th grade son). For example, most of the schools use all of the following to figure yearly cost:

Tuition
Room and Board
Books
Travel
Personal Expenses

With all of those things considered, the schools we're looking at all range from about $58,000-$62,000 per year. BUT, based on financial need only (using their online calculators), our costs are down to anywhere from $11,500-$14,000 per year.

We are actually going to let our daughter take a small loan to help...that will be her contribution. A loan of $3500 per year is figured in, so she would graduate with $14,000 in loans...that seems reasonable and acceptable to me, and who knows, depending on how things are going, we might help her pay those off when she's done (perhaps a nice graduation present).

So, our cost is expected to be anywhere from $8,000 to $10,500 per year. When you consider that $1300 of that is for "personal expenses" which we would be paying if she still lived at home anyway and some of that is for "board" which we would also be paying, this seems very doable to me.

One of the ways to get that type of financial aid is to make sure not to have a ton of liquid cash. So, we had started to accumulate some, so we did something about that...replaced the siding on our house now (it needed it soon) rather than wait until after she starts college, and we're going to pay our lone car loan off a year early...it's at 0% interest, but we don't want the extra cash sitting there in our bank account, because the university will just take it. Any additional extra money we accumulate from now until our financial awards are given next year will be thrown at the mortgage.

I don't want to cheat anyone, and we will be truthful about how much money we have (not going to hide cash in a jar somewhere and say we don't have it), but we will use the rules in place to our advantage.

The weird thing about all this college researching is that for my family, it costs significantly less to send my daughter to an Ivy League school or several other top-tier schools than it would be to send her to a mediocre private school and even most state schools. Ivy League schools don't give athletic or academic scholarships...it is all based on financial need.

Here's a list of colleges that meet 100% of demonstrated need (many of these have online calculators where you can get a very good estimate of the amount you will have to pay):

Colleges That Claim to Meet Full Financial Need - US News

Also, if the loan you get is a subsidized student loan (most are), then the government pays the interest while you are in school, so if you take $14,000 in loans while a student, it's just $14,000 on the day you graduate. If you have that money then, you can simply pay it off and never have to pay interest.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:03 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by 34rlsa View Post
I just want to commend all of you who have made it possible for your children to complete a college education. You are exceptional parents... congratulations.


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Originally Posted by Mulligan View Post
I wouldn't consider mine and Ex's payments 100% altruistic in nature. I believe DD would be perfectly happy to stay at either parents house the rest of her life and be taken care of. Kicking her out to go to college and paying for it, seems a potentially cheaper proposition than the former.
There is more to enabling your kids college education than paying the bill.
Not all parents encourage higher education after high school.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:03 PM   #49
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It will be interesting to see how closely your actual payment correlates with your anticipated payment. Then again, we've always been of the ant version of people, doggedly preparing to meet our obligations and then being penalized for it. No doubt the way you structured your assets helps. Sometimes it is not so smart to be prepared.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:27 PM   #50
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We're not quite there yet, but our ER plan is for 20K/year in todays dollars for the eight years we'll potentially have kids in college. Oldest is a HS freshman and still hasn't communicated post HS intentions. We've always set the expectation that college is in their future, but the final decision is theirs. I'm sure we'll be on that bridge before long and hopefully 20K/year will handle it. We're thinking 2 year CC and then transfer to state schools.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:29 PM   #51
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It will be interesting to see how closely your actual payment correlates with your anticipated payment. Then again, we've always been of the ant version of people, doggedly preparing to meet our obligations and then being penalized for it. No doubt the way you structured your assets helps. Sometimes it is not so smart to be prepared.
Yeah, those calculators don't promise exact numbers, but they are VERY specific with things...asking for line 7 on your 1040 and line 23 and so on.

Lots of ways to prepare to pay for college, and what we have done is make sure to be debt free (but for the house; we just have a 0% interest car loan at the moment aside from the house) when our youngest starts so that we can pay for most of it with income. Allowing her to take on some debt is so that she has ownership in the college choice, because the fact of the matter is that here in Ohio she has the grades and test scores to get a full ride to several state colleges (they have published criteria that she has met), and she could probably successfully get full academic rides at 2nd tier colleges if she were to apply. BUT, she has her heart set on a few different schools (all of which I agree would be GREAT fits for her, so I'm willing to pay a bit), so we're looking at those.

It is quite an exhausting process, so I'll be glad when it is over.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:31 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by 34rlsa View Post
I just want to commend all of you who have made it possible for your children to complete a college education. You are exceptional parents... congratulations.




There is more to enabling your kids college education than paying the bill.
Not all parents encourage higher education after high school.
This is a good point. Not all kids should go to college. I agree with that.
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Old 02-28-2014, 02:58 PM   #53
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I appreciate all the responses.

Some of them surprise me.

For example, my wife and I (she works half time) make right on $90,000 a year, and we qualify for HUGE financial aid provided by the schools we are looking at for our now HS junior daughter (we also have an 8th grade son). For example, most of the schools use all of the following to figure yearly cost:

Tuition
Room and Board
Books
Travel
Personal Expenses

With all of those things considered, the schools we're looking at all range from about $58,000-$62,000 per year. BUT, based on financial need only (using their online calculators), our costs are down to anywhere from $11,500-$14,000 per year.

We are actually going to let our daughter take a small loan to help...that will be her contribution. A loan of $3500 per year is figured in, so she would graduate with $14,000 in loans...that seems reasonable and acceptable to me, and who knows, depending on how things are going, we might help her pay those off when she's done (perhaps a nice graduation present).

So, our cost is expected to be anywhere from $8,000 to $10,500 per year. When you consider that $1300 of that is for "personal expenses" which we would be paying if she still lived at home anyway and some of that is for "board" which we would also be paying, this seems very doable to me.

One of the ways to get that type of financial aid is to make sure not to have a ton of liquid cash. So, we had started to accumulate some, so we did something about that...replaced the siding on our house now (it needed it soon) rather than wait until after she starts college, and we're going to pay our lone car loan off a year early...it's at 0% interest, but we don't want the extra cash sitting there in our bank account, because the university will just take it. Any additional extra money we accumulate from now until our financial awards are given next year will be thrown at the mortgage.

I don't want to cheat anyone, and we will be truthful about how much money we have (not going to hide cash in a jar somewhere and say we don't have it), but we will use the rules in place to our advantage.

The weird thing about all this college researching is that for my family, it costs significantly less to send my daughter to an Ivy League school or several other top-tier schools than it would be to send her to a mediocre private school and even most state schools. Ivy League schools don't give athletic or academic scholarships...it is all based on financial need.

Here's a list of colleges that meet 100% of demonstrated need (many of these have online calculators where you can get a very good estimate of the amount you will have to pay):

Colleges That Claim to Meet Full Financial Need - US News

Also, if the loan you get is a subsidized student loan (most are), then the government pays the interest while you are in school, so if you take $14,000 in loans while a student, it's just $14,000 on the day you graduate. If you have that money then, you can simply pay it off and never have to pay interest.
That is very close to what I ended up doing. As you say, internationally recognised schools don't really discount based on academics. My kids graduated top or top 2% of their hs class and high 90th percentile SAT, but only the locally recognised schools offered merit discounts.

One will graduate in May and the other is scheduled for 3 years from now. Both are in internationally recognized schools, one private and one public. The one 529 account is about gone (maybe started with 125k?).

What I had to do in order to make going to the private school work was to move after tax money into a retirement account. Since I already was maxing 401k, and Roth, I chunked money into a Vanguard variable annuity (a dirty word on this board, but useful in this instance, I think). I ended up with great discounts from the school. The kids are ending up with loans that can just be paid off from 529 assets that are left over. You can take money out of the 529 without penalty in the amount up to what they gave you in discounts (they call them scholarships and grants, but I call them discounts). You need to pay tax on the gains, though, just not penalties. Anyway, the discounts this year were amaaaazing! Reason being I had two kids in school at the same time.

So my way is not the cheap way out, but the kids got what I think is a leg up on life, and a cool way to enter adulthood...4 years of college with the only thing to do is do well in school, have a good time, and go to the federal workstudy cushy job to earn pocket money.
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Old 02-28-2014, 03:09 PM   #54
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> We just filed out FAFSA for the formality.

There was no way DS was going to get need-based aid, so we skipped FAFSA. That was kind of fun.

He still was offered a modest merit based scholarship.
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Old 02-28-2014, 05:16 PM   #55
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Oldest son had tuition covered by military benefits so we covered room/board, food and transportation.
We paid tuition, room/board for second son. He worked part-time for his transportation costs.
Both had part time jobs while in school but we wanted them to concentrate on studies so work was very limited.
Since we spent much less on oldest son we made down payment on his first home and bought new appliances for his first and second homes.
We then gave them each approx. the same $$ for their weddings.
They are now on their own and we don't see them ever needing help financially from us.
Our next goal is to pay at least the tuition for our grandchildren.
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Old 02-28-2014, 06:14 PM   #56
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For my college, I paid about 2/3 of the total cost by working three part time jobs. After my first 3 semesters, I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife), and my mom said, "I'm not paying for that." My response was, "That sounds fair." From that point on my girlfriend and I paid everything ourselves. My mom, was stunned. Don't think she believed I had it in me. My wife graduated a year and a half before I did with a 2 year degree and got a starter job that paid about as much as my 3 part time jobs. The last year of my college we were on easy street. Even bought our first car.

For my son we loaded up a state 529 plan which ended up paying all expenses and even has almost a semester of extra tuition left over. Over half of the money was earnings on the plan. We put most of the money in near the low point of the last recession. Our base incomes were very high and at that time we had a paid off house. The only financial aid my son received was grant type stuff he earned doing programming tasks for some DNA research project at the college. It was supposed to go to a grad student. But none of them knew C++ and when they had tried to use a Java trained grad student the year before it had not gone well.
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Old 02-28-2014, 09:34 PM   #57
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We have no children, so I can't advise on that. As for me -- my uncle Sam paid for my college education. I paid cash on my own for law school.
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Old 02-28-2014, 11:03 PM   #58
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I wouldn't consider mine and Ex's payments 100% altruistic in nature. I believe DD would be perfectly happy to stay at either parents house the rest of her life and be taken care of. Kicking her out to go to college and paying for it, seems a potentially cheaper proposition than the former.
+1. We think of college as a very good long term investment. Who knows when we are old and senile and hand over all our money to some nice your man from Ameriprise who dwindles it all away on commissions and fees, maybe our kids will be making enough to support us.

We realized after DH wanted to semi-ER we could arrange our income and investments to get both ACA subsidies and some financial aid for college. Combining public schools, tax credits, financial aid, community college and online course credits and paid internships, and so far it has been a pleasant surprise how little we've had to pay out of our own pockets, at least so far.

We found the payscale reports on salary by school, salary by major, and ROI by school very helpful:

http://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report-2014

We also work with them on clubs, internships, certificate programs outside of school, volunteer work, or whatever to help build up their resumes as best they can.
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Old 03-02-2014, 01:20 PM   #59
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Oldest son had tuition covered by military benefits so we covered room/board, food and transportation.
We paid tuition, room/board for second son. He worked part-time for his transportation costs.
Both had part time jobs while in school but we wanted them to concentrate on studies so work was very limited.
Since we spent much less on oldest son we made down payment on his first home and bought new appliances for his first and second homes.
We then gave them each approx. the same $$ for their weddings.
They are now on their own and we don't see them ever needing help financially from us.
Our next goal is to pay at least the tuition for our grandchildren.
Good grief. Now I know how the newest generation is considered the entitlement generation. LOL.

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Old 03-02-2014, 01:23 PM   #60
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This is a good point. Not all kids should go to college. I agree with that.
Skilled trade jobs are going unfilled yet we continue to pump out 50 times more education grads than teacher positions avail in this country.
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