Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Money Conversation -- What Are You Saying to Your Teens?

In this series of posts on paying for college, I asked Mom's College Cram Course panelists if they were telling their children to factor in cost as they were thinking about colleges, or were they taking the "Apply, get in, and we'll see what we can do" approach. Here's what they had to say.

"Our pact with our kids has always been do your best in school and we will find a way to send you to your first choice school. We are not limiting choices due to cost," said Tina Squyres. "Our older daughter was given a full scholarship at one school and a decent scholarship at another...neither was a top choice. She chose a school that does not offer merit scholarships."

Another mom, Deborah Gaines, said, "I’ve told my daughter that she will get to go to the school of her dreams when she finds it/if she gets in, even if it means me taking out big loans. That said, she is aware of the financial issues, will be working this summer to save money for school (hopefully to be used for extras like a new computer or a car if she needs one), and knows she needs to be open to the fact that the school may not be one currently on her radar."

Jeanne Hogle is also giving her daughter free rein in the selection process. "Many colleges have very large endowments which reduce the final cost for families dramatically. My daughter is very smart, works hard, takes AP classes, and is studying to get the highest score she can on her SATs."

One of our admissions officer panelists made this point: "I’ve talked with many friends and colleagues over the years who attended private colleges (and whose parents attended college), and their attitude was much more the 'apply and we’ll figure it out' approach. I think it comes down to how higher education is viewed by the family. If it’s considered as essential as owning a home, families look for a way to make it work. If it’s considered a 'luxury' item (my own father’s view back in the day), it’s hard for them to justify the cost."

At our house, well, yes, there are no restrictions. And a quality education is considered an essential part of life. But that is tempered somewhat; our daughter does understand that a less expensive undergraduate school means there might be money to get started in graduate school.

Knut Lundberg, with Factius Financial Strategies, believes students "should have some skin in the game." Whether that takes the form of loans that aren't too onerous, or working during summers or the school year, it's a philosophy that many parents believe in -- including those quoted here. When it comes to paying for college (or at least some of the expenses related to the overall cost), it makes sense for all parties to be involved.

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