I was about to get sucked into a totally off-topic discussion on one of the childbirth sites I visit, when I realized my thoughts would be much more appropriately shared here on my blog. The gist of the thread was: Why wouldn't you pay for your kids' education, if you could afford to?
When I first applied to colleges, I was living in Westchester County, New York. I don't know where it ranks now, but at the time, it had the second highest cost of living in the country, right after Orange County, California. Because government assistance and need-based loans were figured at the national level, rather than calculated by region, my father's income fell well above the cut off. Keep in mind, at the time, he worked for a local Christian not-for-profit organization--not the sort of place known for paying unusually high salaries.
However, even if he'd been a wealthy man, my father has told me he would not have paid for my college education. He felt it was important that I see the value of my schooling--and figured I would truly know its value if I was the one coughing up the funds every semester.
Now, I do have to add that it was understood I'd have a portion of my bill paid by academic scholarships. And, while they certainly did help, I still went into debt to pay for college. I attended a state school with in-state residency, so my costs were kept to a minimum, but I finished school with about $15,000 I needed to pay back.
I didn't find it an unreasonable burden to carry. I did have to seek out financial aid, as well as work part-time (10-15 hours per week) my entire college career. That seemed like a decent exchange to me. I did know exactly how much my education was costing me because I saw the bills coming in and wrote the checks going out.
What I also noticed was a large percentage of my friends who partied and blew off their class work didn't have to pay anything towards tuition or room and board. I felt that paying my own way made me a more serious student. I was much less likely to waste my time when it was costing me so much!
Would I do the same for my kids? I don't know. I definitely believe that students should contribute to some of their educational costs. But what if my kid wants to go to a private liberal arts school that costs $30,000 a year? Should she have to raise all that money herself?
Now that I'm married to a man who went to a private college on his own dime (or at least, his own signature on the student loan forms), I know what it's like to be in my 30's and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. For the cost of Adam's monthly loan payment, we could be driving a pretty nice new car.
So, is it worth all that? I'm not entirely sure. For now, at least, we don't have a college fund set up. What money would we be using to put into it? Maybe we should start the test-taking strategies early and make sure our daughter does really well on her PSAT. National Merit Scholarship, here we come!
Eh, maybe it can wait until she turns three.