529 Fears - Live Like a Mensch
Welcome to Dollar Stretcher Community Sign in | Join | Help
in Search

Live Like a Mensch

529 Fears

Photo courtesy of Austin Godber


My parents got divorced when I was 3 years old, and my big sister was 6. The standard boilerplate for a divorce in Maryland specified that parents would provide for their children to get an education through the University of Maryland system. My father requested that the lawyers change that wording. He wanted it to be clear that if his daughters wanted to go to Harvard, then he would get on his hands and knees and scrub floors to make sure that happened.

While neither of us went to Harvard, we both did decide on private liberal arts colleges: Oberlin for Tracie, and Kenyon for me. The tuition for Kenyon when I started in 1997 was somewhere in the range of $24,000 per year. My four years there cost over $100,000, considering the tuition was hovering near $30,000 by my senior year. While neither of my parents had to scrub floors to send me there, it was definitely more expensive than a University of Maryland education would have been.

And I could not be more grateful.

Attending Kenyon has affected my life in so many ways, from my education to my philosophy of life to my relationships--to the fact that its proximity to Columbus is part of why I moved there as a 22-year-old graduate, meaning I was in the right city at the right time two years later to meet a certain mechanical engineer. Heck, there's a reason why J and I decided to get married at Kenyon.

I sometimes have fantasies about LO attending my alma mater, although I try very hard to squelch those. I want him to have the wonderful collegiate experience I did, which he can't do if I try to have him live up to my expectations. 

Unfortunately, I'm not certain that I will be able to afford to send him to Kenyon in 16 years, even if he wanted to go there.

A Bankrate video I recently watched (which I unfortunately have not been able to embed), points out the difference between starting to save at birth and waiting until your little scholar is 12. If you start by putting away $200 at birth, then, through the magical power of compound interest, you will have about $77,000 stashed by the time he reaches age 18. This will cover about 21% of the cost of a private university in 2028 and about 49% of a public school's tuition.

J and I have been good little savers. We started putting money aside for LO's college fund before he was born. And I really believe in the power of compound interest. But even with all of those things, unless something changes, we're looking at only saving a quarter to a half of the money LO will need for college.

Back in the 80s, when I was a munchkin, the prospect of paying for college was something a normal middle income family could plan for, even if it required hands-and-knees scrubbing. These days, I worry about my ability to give LO the incredible college experience I had. I have no qualms about allowing LO to take on student loans--that was part of how my family paid for my college education and I was proud to be able to do my financial part in paying for my spendy liberal arts degree. But asking my child to take on the level of debt that would be necessary to pay for $400,000 worth of private undergraduate education is not something I'm willing to do.

So, I'm faced with the prospect of either trying to find ways to save more, or knowing that my child cannot have the kind of experience I did. (Or, there's always the alternative of encouraging him to start on a sport NOW.)

Ultimately, I know that it will all work out in the end. We are certainly not the only family in this predicament, and something will have to give in terms of higher education costs. And LO is going to have an interesting, educational, and fun path, filled with incredible relationships and moments of self discovery, whether or not he has an opportunity to get an expensive liberal arts education. 

I just wish I felt more confident that I could give him his pick of great choices in 16 years.


And on that bummer of a note, let's have some chocolate! Fair Trade Organic chocolate minis, to be exact. If you'd like to win a box just in time for Halloween--and you get your pick of dark or milk chocolate, simply post a comment on this post by Thursday, October 25.



marianberman said:

Emily, don't forget that both you and your sister got need blind scholarship money. so keep reading to LO.

October 18, 2012 5:04 PM

frugal_fun said:

I know the feeling.

I was lucky enough to go to Colorado College - a liberal arts college located in Colorado Springs.

Looking back, it was a great experience. I met my husband there, traveled a great deal of the western US and generally got time to learn about myself and the world.

On the other hand, those 4 years set up a set of false expectations about the world that I had to chuck in a very painful manner in the 2 years immediately after college. :(

Alas, we've already had too many children (3) to think that sending them 100% on our nickel to a resort college is realistic. We are debt free and live currently on one income, but we still struggle to make the ends meet all the time. (This year was particularly bad.) Our college "savings" are also doubling as a retirement fund. (It's going into a Roth)

Our plan is to give them as many college credits as possible during high school. We homeschool right now and I've been eyeing the AP tests very seriously recently for the high school years. Getting 4s or 5s on enough of those can shave a least a year, if not 2 off practically an college in the country. Then they can get a scholarship to the college of their choice, neither time or money will be wasted on classes they could have taken anywhere. They will also know they can handle college level work.

Another advantage is that we have is that we live in an area that is surrounded by high quality universities, almost all of them have worked hard to keep tuition reasonable. If they can get a Bachelor's with honors from any one of the them, then they can go to Harvard or whatever's next.

Am I sad that I don't think replicating my college experience is probable for our children? Yep. But I don't think it's a tragedy. (My husband didn't have it.) Having them graduate debt free with realistic views about what lies ahead is much more important to us.

October 19, 2012 11:14 AM

haverwench said:

Marianberman is right. Back when I was applying to schools, Kenyon was offering full tuition scholarships for students whose grades and SAT scores were above a certain level. I just checked their website--www.kenyon.edu/x10027.xml--and found that this scholarship now maxes out at $20,000, while a full year's tuition is more than twice that. But there is need-based aid as well. And there are other schools where full tuition scholarships still exist for truly gifted students--see www.finaid.org/.../academicscholarships.phtml.

And frugal_fun has a good point as well. Taking those AP courses will not only give him the option of graduating sooner but also help him get into schools in the first place--and maybe give him a better shot at landing one of those scholarships, so he can opt to take the full four years if he wants to.

October 19, 2012 9:18 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

J and I have separate checking accounts, but we both bank with the same institution, Huntington Bank

December 3, 2012 5:55 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

If you haven't heard the newest silliness coming from Washington, apparently there's a serious

January 11, 2013 5:27 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

As I've mentioned previously , I'm a big believer in aiming for a modest (under $500) tax refund

April 16, 2013 5:34 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

As I've mentioned before , my dear dad was a financial planner who got his career started by selling

May 9, 2013 4:31 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

As of Thursday, May 23, 2013, my student loan is officially vanquished! To pay this bad boy off, I sent

May 27, 2013 8:57 AM

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in here.

If you do not have a log in, please register here. It's easy and quick. All that is required is your email address and a sign-in name and password that you create. Your email address is kept private.

The Dollar Stretcher has a new community! Click here to check it out and create your new account.

Share this Post

This Blog


About Us    Privacy Policy    Writers' Guidelines     Sponsorship     Media    Contact Us

Powered by Community Server (Commercial Edition), by Telligent Systems