You don't have to look far to find a post about how college is a scam or not worth the money. The nations college loan is a 1.5+Trillion dollar bubble which could burst soon and impact all of our lives.
So many articles encouraging young people to forego college and avoid the debt. In some ways I don't disagree. I believe EVERYONE should get an education, but at what cost?
My journey through college was a bit different. Coming from a divorced family, I grew up in a tougher atmosphere and help in any way from my parents wasn't going to happen.
So I left for the military when I was 17. No help from my parents except a ride to boot camp. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents but they just didn't have the ability to pay for college. I wasn't going to get buried in loan and I wasn't going to rot in a shit job.
So off I went...
Five years later I returned from the west coast with one year of college completed and all of my education paid for. I worked my ball sack off and completed my Engineering degree and my MBA. Although my education was completely paid for from the military, I still worked part time all through college and came out with no debts.
So what's the fucking problem?
The problem is my daughter as her path is much different. She didn't grow up in a difficult atmosphere but a rather pampered one. She has no obligation to pay for her education and she knows it. She's seeking a liberal arts degree and will probably live with me until she's 40.
I love the girl and want her to pursue her dreams, so I have accepted her choices. I know a lot of engineers that make a great living but have the common sense and social skills of a crayon, and are miserable in their careers.
The other problem is the damn schools. So many choices and such a bunch of bullshit. My daughter is the lucky one, she will have no loans but so many will. How does a person survive with a liberal arts degree and over $100K in loans? It fucking tragic...
So her first choice is a private school that is over $50K/year. She pulls in some scholarship money and brings the cost down to $42K/year. What the hell?
Her second choice is a state school with a similar ranking in her curriculum. $22K/year all in. I'm so freakin happy because all I have to do is convince her to go public and I just saved a cool $80K over four years.
We visit the first school and they put on a good show. They go through many of the course curriculum and give several presentations. They walk us through the school and have many impressive visual aides. Several of the students give personal testimonies and of course they are all very positive. Their public speakers (administrators and faculty) are very good and we are impressed. We leave with a ton of literature that will sit on the kitchen counter for several weeks reminding us of how great the school is.
Moving on to the state school....
We are gathered with a large group of other potential freshmen and meet in the basement of an old building. We're greeted by a mal-adjusted sophomore who for the next three hours gives us his personal college experience all of which was not interesting and at times inappropriate.
We walk through a couple of classrooms that are all the same with no visual aides, no presentation, nothing. blah, blah, blah... It was terrible!
And to no surprise, my daughter came to me in tears and said she didn't want to go to state. She was crying from guilt because she knew how much we were counting on her to attend. To be honest, I didn't blame her, it was that bad.
The next day I felt like calling the school and giving them a verbal beat down. However, I realized that the anger was all about money and not the best interest of my kid. The schools had almost an identical ranking so how could the first impression be so bad?
A lack of preparation, salesmanship and a little enthusiasm cost me $80K!!!! Bastards..
A small silver lining of this story is that I called the private school and was able to actually negotiate $4K in faculty scholarships to bring the pain down a bit.
So why am I telling you this story.... A little advice of course based on my experience.
1. You may not want to be completely forthright with your kids on paying for college. I don't think my daughter worked on alternative options or Plan B since she knew there was an open checkbook.
2. Apply to as many schools as possible. We probably could have found a few similar lower cost alternatives to the state school, but we were so convinced that she would be going there that we didn't bother. Don't believe the magazines or blogs, you have to see it for yourself before knowing your child will want to attend.
3. Apply for as many scholarships as possible but in the end always negotiate. This is more difficult for public schools but private schools need your money. Let them know that there are much lower cost options and you need additional money to send your kid to their school. Like I mentioned, a simple phone call knocked $4K/year off our tuition.
4. Make em' work. I worked over 20 hours a week while getting a full time engineering degree.
5. Pass $20K/year through a 529 plan. No matter where your getting the funding for college, pass it through a college savings plan first to get the state tax deduction. It's not rocket science but rather a simple transaction.
Good luck....If you have any additional question please post in the comment section.