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Old 02-28-2008, 08:58 AM   #81
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beldar, you should write a book on "How to get into U.T." It would be a best seller in the state.
The 10% rule is a big problem for UT. The top 10% of every state high school class is guaranteed admission into any Texas public university. So many of them pick UT that they don't have too many spots for other very worthy students.

I asked my daughter yesterday and she said she's given up on her UT application. She even talked to a human, but couldn't get her app through. She already has an acceptance at a school she'd rather go to anyway.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:02 AM   #82
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Just a brief thought, although I see many of you have already noted, when helping your child pick a school, I'd strongly urge you to help them find one that is well rounded. Graduating with a 4.0 from a industry specific college may be great, but I think there's so much more to the college experience. We insisted our daughter live on her own, and my spouse pretty much told her to leave the state (wish I'd put aside more travel miles), but I think that living with others, especially those you didn't grow up with, is a huge growth experience. I also love the fact that my daughter's school has a successful athletic program, as my daughter is in marching band and has already gotten to go on one trip to a major bowl game. I went to an urban, inner city school and thought nothing of it, until I visited my daughter's school and got the chance to see what a true college experience truly can be like and what I missed out on. My kids grew up being watched all the time, if not by us then by day care's or schools. At some point I think you've got to quit keeping an eye on them, and let them make some of their own decisions and mistakes....as hard as this may be. All just my opinion.
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Old 02-28-2008, 09:05 AM   #83
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The 10% rule is a big problem for UT. The top 10% of every state high school class is guaranteed admission into any Texas public university. So many of them pick UT that they don't have too many spots for other very worthy students.

I asked my daughter yesterday and she said she's given up on her UT application. She even talked to a human, but couldn't get her app through. She already has an acceptance at a school she'd rather go to anyway.
Running, true. However, what I found out is the way they get around the 10% rule is just to not offer housing. "Sure, you can come to our school. Hope you have a place to live".
I don't really care that UT ignored us, but I just thought it odd considering much better schools were there, and with nice scholarship offers, and actually communicated with us.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:06 AM   #84
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While 529s do give you flexibility over the beneficiary, it's a little tougher to get flexibility over the purpose-- for example a kid who doesn't use any of the fund (full scholarship, military academy) or who doesn't go to school at all yet needs seed money to fund the next FedEx. So I guess you have to balance the tax savings against the flexibility.
Yup. My kids will have a mixture of 529's and ESA's, but the point is nearly the same last from what I remember from the last time I read all the detailed rules. I'm also saving in a taxable account in my own name that will end up being the supplementary college fund / emergency fund / FIRE stash supplement depending on how life turns out.

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Back in 1992, before 529s and when UTMAs were about the only college-saving game in town, we ran a spreadsheet on the College Board's numbers and decided to save $5000/year. That was painful enough for one kid, but between Berkshire Hathaway & Tweedy Browne Global Value it's kept up with the website's surveys of college-cost inflation.

You're doubly (OK, triply) screwed challenged by not only saving enough for whatever college but by having to do so equitably for all the kids, who will persecute you (and each other) for the remainder of their lives over the slightest perceived inequities.
I'm actually hoping that they'll turn out like me and my sisters. My parents somehow raised us such that my sisters and I don't have any issues of the sort you describe. I think it was because we were all reassured that we would get essentially the same deal and the deal was pretty darn good -- college wherever we wanted, a first car, and wedding help. There was no notion of "Well, child #2 got a $6000 car and child #3 got a $3000 car, so we need to give child #3 $3000 to even things out" on anyone's part.

There is a potential benefit of having more than one if I go the route of sloshing money in hand-me-down fashion. That way if child #1 picks a less expensive school and child #2 picks a more expensive school, it will even out. That is, I'm more likely to have the average of my three kids' college expenses be closer to the College Board average than you are.

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Another complication is that the cost doesn't matter as much as the kid being able to feel that they're in the right place. Eight years at State U with no degree is more expensive than four years at Harvard, and we know several kids who've had a few false starts.

So perhaps the real problem statement needs to account for your ER goal (primary) followed by saving as much for the family college fund as you feel is appropriate (secondary). If it's enough for all three to attend their dream schools, great. If it's not then it's their problem. However this approach might not make all parents feel that they're getting their kids off to a good start.
Yup. I went to an Ivy League for 2.5 years and didn't like it; I had chosen it partly for the "parent decal" idea. I transferred to a different school and really liked my last two years. Although I was married and lived off campus then, so that was slightly different than most.

"Getting them off to a good start"...what's tough is that what I'd be doing for them is more than most people do for their kids, but not as much as my parents did for me. There is a strong incentive for me to avoid guilt by providing the same (or better) deal to my kids. Not to mention the "progressive" ideal in America that each generation should do better than the one before.

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As far as equal shares goes, I'd make a public family policy that you'll pay for eight semesters at State U (which gives you the additional advantage of only having to know the costs for the one school) with anything else being their personal funding problem. That way each kid gets a "fair" share and it neatly avoids the issue of paying for grad school, doctorates, law school, MBAs, or apprenticeship training programs. If your investments are successful enough to forecast that you'll have more funding available then change the policy to "State U plus another $10K tuition for whatever you want" and let them figure it out.

Other incentives: Spouse also graduated from USNA. Spouse's father made it clear to her that he was paying for her brother's State U degree because he was a much poorer student (true) and easily distracted (very true). Her parents had to work a lot harder to get her brother to go to college in the first place, let alone graduate. To assuage his concerns, he also bought each of them a good used car. At the time no one felt that anyone had been treated unfairly, and this has never been an issue during subsequent family disharmony.
I've had conversations with my eldest about the difference between "fair" and "equal". Feeding them each an equal amount of food isn't fair; the oldest needs more calories than the youngest. My middle one just had surgery to the tune of $1000 out-of-pocket, what do I do to make it fair to the other two? Give them each $1000? Only if they have the surgery? Since my kids span 7 years, should I adjust their college funds by inflation? There is some good balance point, I think, between strict equality of $X per kid for college and treating them all as unique individuals.

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Whenever our kid's asked questions about college costs, we've told her that we think we have enough to afford to send her wherever she wants to go. (The truth is, that's what we think!) She just wants reassurance, not a budget analysis. We want her to choose a college that she's excited about and feels that she belongs to, not something that's affordable despite its bad fit. Hawaii kids are also notorious for only breaking the apron strings by going to a Mainland school, not to UH Manoa.

We've told her that we'll deposit half the $$ value of every scholarship she wins straight into her checking account for her personal use. (Now she's motivated to write essays and to interview, since she can determine how many hours of effort might yield how many $$.) We've also told her that when she graduates in four years, there will be some form of (as yet unspecified) profit-sharing to be used for a home down payment or toward grad school. Again she's just looking for reassurance, not an audited financial statement. We're trying to fan a spark of motivation into a raging flame...
Good point about reassurance vs. budget analysis. I think that although fit is most important, I want my kids to at least look at the price tag of the schools they like and take it into consideration.

Good idea on the scholarships. I think some sort of profit sharing will be implemented with my kids as well. My eldest is gunning for 100% payout.

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Here's a couple additional costs that might be worth funding BEFORE college:
- College trips (if the kid can't see it then they can't feel ownership, let alone ask the right questions)
- Kumon or other after-school study/tutorial programs
- School field trips like Washington Workshop or other "good student" trips
- SAT/ACT prep software and prep courses
- Application fees, if applicable
Absolutely. I'm looking into taking my eldest on a trip to my alma mater since he says thats where he wants to go (even though he doesn't even know where it is or what it looks like). 13 is a bit young, but I'm going anyway for something else, and it'd be a chance for him and me to spend some time together. I will take each of them on scouting trips as the time draws nearer.

I'm hoping to finance most of the things you listed above out of regular cash flow.

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Old 02-28-2008, 11:20 AM   #85
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We insisted our daughter live on her own, and my spouse pretty much told her to leave the state (wish I'd put aside more travel miles), but I think that living with others, especially those you didn't grow up with, is a huge growth experience.
That seems to be an axiom accepted by most parents in the U.S that living with parents is uncool and independence is of utmost importance. This is not widely shared by a majority of Asian parents. They think that moving out is justified only if the school is out of state or far away and paying rent is a waste [of money]. The really do not fully understand the concept of independence, and many of them depend on their children to care for them because of language and cultural barriers. They also want to give moral support and help to saving a lot of money for the future that is a big step toward financial freedom. It may be difficult for kids who are torn between the cultures. Should they live on their own as a way to fit in or go against the wishes of their parents? My daughter lives on campus even though it is only 15 miles away. I am okay with that, but my wife thinks it is better that she lives at home so that she can see her more often and also save money. DW also points out that two of her brother’s kids going to the same university are staying home. I also notice our Asian neighbor’s kids who went and graduated from the same school have been living at home. They say living at home did not deter them from socializing with their friends on campus and the money saved will help them achieve financial independence quicker. My personal feeling is independence is a good thing but it does not have to start in college. You have a lifetime to live on your own. Further, I do not believe that going to college but with financial support from parents is truly independent. Living on your own after college and paying your own way may qualify as financial independence. It seems ironic that there is a growing trend of college graduates returning home to live with their parents for a variety of reasons: lack of job prospects, to save money or to figure what life is all about.
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Old 02-28-2008, 12:27 PM   #86
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jIM, What are your thoughts on Co-op'ing? My daughters school highly recommends it for their engineering students. Would you say it was worthwhile, or in retrospect, would it have been better to get out of school faster?
Also, what's your outlook for the future of mechanical engineers? In your opinion, do you think a college freshmen will have any problem finding work in the field in four or five years, or is the market getting saturated ala computer programmers?
My son co-op'd at Purdue (mech eng) and the experience was excellent.

There are some drawbacks:

It's more difficult to graduate in five years co-oping than four years not co-oping because there is at least one summer semester on campus where you must find a way to carry a full semester academic load. Other semesters require heavy course loads as well.

Housing can become challenging due to the on and off campus rotation. My son had two friends, frat bros also co-oping, he shared apartments with when they were all on campus.

Extracurricular activity opportunites are limited due to the on and off campus schedule.

Positives:

He believes the work experience he received was more valuable than he would have gotten from any summer job.

The money helped. His company paid co-op's pretty well.

Recruiters liked seeing the co-op experience on his resume. He wound up taking a job with an employer other than his co-op employer and never felt locked into accepting an offer from the co-op employer.

There was zero transition period into the working world at graduation. Of the group of freshouts hired at the Megacorp where he started, he was the first to be promoted to Sr Eng, probably due to his fast start.

YMMV
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:57 PM   #87
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Also swirling around in my head is some sort of policy that they must be getting decent grades and/or progressing towards a degree in order for me to keep paying for things.
DD struggled the first year, and even failed an important class. But she got back on track, and last semester (as a junior), she got four A's and is on the Dean's list. So a rigid policy may not work so well.
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