Paying For College

Dear Sara,

I’m not sure what to do. My son has graduated from high school and he wants to go to school in another state and he expects his father and me to pay for it. It’s very expensive and would stretch our budget to the limit. He thinks he can get loans and pay for it later but he would be in debt for a long time. We can afford him in-state tuition but he said he isn’t going to do that. What’s the best way to handle this?

Dear Abigail,

Sometimes when a kid gets a notion in their head there is no talking them out of it. Let your son know that the limit of your budget is the in-state tuition and after that he is on his own. If he borrows money then it will be his responsibility to pay this back. I hope he will choose a profession that will allow him to do this. At his age he will probably need you to co-sign his loan. Make sure he knows that he is responsible for his debt.
Sometimes you have to let go and let your children make their own mistakes. May be he will change his mind and take the logical step of going to school in his own state.


  1. However, if you co-sign, you are on the hook should he default.
    We had a similar situation. Our daughter was accepted to an out-of-state university, thankfully ranked slightly below the in-state university where she had also been accepted to, to study for the same degree at both.
    My husband said it would be financially foolish to spend almost twice the amount to ‘buy’ the same degree from a school not even as highly ranked – and that he had worked too hard and we had done without too much to make such a financially unwise decision. Since many degrees now require advanced degrees beyond the undergraduate, he suggested that she go out of state at that time – when there are often paying positions for grad students. She accepted that and eventually did just that.

  2. kristen says:

    Retirement should be a time for relaxation, traveling, and doing all the things one couldn’t do while working. If one can afford to send their kids to college that is one thing. But if it will mean the years you spent working and doing without is for naught because you have to pay for an expensive college education and now still have to do without I say rethink it. Tons of people have paid their own way through college by working during the summer. Let them get student loans, grants, or anything to help. If you really want to help, you give them a student loan at 0% interest and have them pay you back instead. You are paying for their expenses but will get the money back. You are basically doing the same thing by co-signing for them to get student loans.

  3. I don’t think we have enough information to be able to call this a mistake. Education is one of the best investments – if not the best investment – you can make (although whether universities filled with Marxist professors actually provide an education is a very valid question). If the out-of-state school is much better, this may in fact be a very shrewd decision, and going to the local college would be a big mistake, even if it means the son will rack up debt which he will then have to pay off. Perhaps he can get a part time job or start a business to make some money along the way to help pay for his studies.

  4. Paul K Marsh says:

    Simple math. Example: If out of state tuition is $15,000 per year more the total after 4 years is $60K. If you run a simple amortization at 5% interest for a 5 year payback is $1132.27 per month. At a 10 year payback it is $636.29 per month – FOR 10 YEARS!!!. Just ask him if he wants to make those kind of payments….and if he still does, he may be too stupid to go to college.

  5. Dear Abigail,

    Has he been accepted to an out of state
    School? If so there are ways to help with the
    cost of attending. There are scholarships, grants
    and financial aid for tuition, books, etc based
    on need. If you haven’t got the budget for the
    school he has in mind perhaps suggesting you’ll
    give him the value of a local college and he would
    have to foot the balance through part time work
    or something. This way you are meeting his need
    Half way and if he wants it to work he would have
    to show some effort on his part. You would have to see if it’s doable factoring in all these
    Variables. Also, there are tax incentives for you
    for doing so as well.

  6. Sue Anne Weiser says:

    1. Look up under the dept or career services of the school website for job possibilities with a BS in that major. Check the salaries for that job. Use it in a spreadsheet budget so they can see how much money they will have on graduation. Tithe, taxes, Health, life, renters, car insurance, utilities, rent, car payments, phone, wifi, gas, car maintenance, savings for big ticket & vacation, savings for a future down payment on a home, savings to build up the 6 month reserve, savings for the things that can go wrong (tire blowout, etc. Clothing & shoes allowance, food & entertainment. All the things they will be responsible for in the future & then say do you also want to have enough loan debt that you are making a second rent payment?
    2. Show your child your budget and ask where they see the extra money for the tuition. You should have showed a version of that to them long ago to help motivate them to do better in Middle & HS. They need to look at websites in8th & 9th grade & see how much of their tuition they can cover by doing their job of working in school with grades & test scores.

    3. There is work study & depending on their major Coops or internships. My oldest had summer jobs. Not paid much. My second had internships. great training and it allowed her to increase her hrly rate each time. Our third went to a coop school. He was able to pay his own room & board year round and gas & entertainment. When he graduated the company gave him credit for his work experience & started him at a higher salary. He also got an extra week of vacation at start. Look for internships in Aug- Oct for the following summer. Look for a summer job in March – May for the summer. Coops look year round.
    4. Your son could take a gap year to get a better idea of his resources and to gain some practical or broadening experiences. Not school at a community college or it will make him a transfer student.

  7. Mac Macdonald says:

    I told both of my kids that if they were smart enough to belong in college, they should be able to get scholarships! And that’s exactly what they did. We told them we would help with supporting other than tuition expense an that is what WE did.

  8. Give him the option of going to a local community college and working part-time for the first two years saving a lot of money and then letting him go wherever he wants. It’s one way to get all your Basics and everything should transfer and he may even get more money for the next two years if he does really well in Community College. This option may require you to help him with an automobile but it’s a good way to start.

  9. When did people become so brainwashed that their kids need college? There really are only certain professions that actually need a college degree…I mean of course you want your doctor, engineers, and lawyers to go to college, but there are so many well paying jobs that make more money and are just personally rewarding as those. Where we live electricians make 80 bucks an hour, construction workers make about the same, welders I am not so sure of, but they make good money. I went to school as a respiratory therapy tech at a trade school( this was in the 70′s) it cost me a total of $22.00 and most of that was for parking passes. I know you can’t do that now, but various trade schools are around and you won’t be in debt for the rest of your life after you graduate. If I had a kid that expected me to pay for their college, they would start at a local community college and go from there. How many 18 year olds even have a clue as to what they want to do for the rest of their lives?

  10. Don’t co sign. At least pay for his books or tuition so you won’t feel bad as a parent and it depends on your finances. We gave options to our kids if they stayed here at the local college and get their basic classes out of the way, we would help them. Please, Please don’t co sign, it does’t make you a bad parent.
    Wish you well.

  11. Robin Rambeau says:

    Many kids including my own go to local college for two years and then transfer to bigger Universities. Both my kids did this and my son is now a Dr (Pediatric endocrinologist) and daughter a teacher/ Dept head with her Masters in Education.
    This helped pay for their advanced degrees

  12. I’ve found the best way to stop nonsensical thinking and actions by Kids is to tell them “if you want to do that(whatever it is) just go right ahead and figure out how to do that”. “ fill out whatever applications for transcripts, loans, admissions, etc. That you need to do, then see what happens”. Most likely they never get off their duffs to even fill out the first form. If they are too lazy to do that, they aren’t going. You’re not stopping them, just not making it your job to make it happen. Works every time. My mom didn’t want me to continue with school and I told her “Mom, I’m not asking you to help me just don’t try to prevent me”. I’m a doctor now. I really wanted it, and I did it.

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