Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sending Teens to College

College is something I have worried about for my kids from the day they were born. I was raised in a family where my father worked as an administrator at universities. I grew up in college, so to speak. So, when it came time for me to graduate high school, I knew I was going to college. I was surprised to find that there would be no financial support coming from my family. I guess I always assumed they had planned for it. Assumption is a dangerous thing, but one that teens are prone to. Luckily for me, I qualified for grants, loans and work-study. The middle being an issue I didn’t think twice about as a teenager. Loans… Sure, I had them, but what did that mean? It was something I would worry about after I graduated.

Now that I’m much older and just a little bit wiser, I realize that loans, while often necessary, come with a price. That price is called interest. I vowed that as my children became college-aged that I would help them pay for college defraying much of that cost. What I didn’t count on is the dramatic increase in the costs of education over the twenty years since I had been there. College, especially four-year colleges, are expensive!

So, plan B. We would pay for the first two years. Then, if they chose a four-year institution, we would pay for room and board providing it was not local. (Out-of-state is out of the question.) Scholarships would have been nice, but we didn’t go that route much to my hindsight dismay. I feel blessed beyond measure to be able to do this much for them.

The economy is not playing nice – it really changes our perspectives about pursuing a degree. Back in the day, education was the pursuit of knowledge. We don’t have that luxury today. Now, there must be a lucrative end goal for the investment to be worth it. I realized that just expecting my kids to go to college without a plan in mind wasn’t realistic. We needed to really consider all avenues. That’s what we are doing now.

My oldest has gone the four-year route. She spent one semester at home going to the community college and is now away at the university she always dreamed of. The catch – transferring may have made her four-year stay into five years. Yikes! That’s a lot of debt for her to take on, especially since her end goal is to teach.

My oldest son graduates this January. He will be at the community college in the spring fulfilling some of the general education requirements. Right now, he’s trying to decide between going to a four-year institution or taking a vocational path and earning an associate’s degree and certifications to work in the automotive industry. Based on our research to date, the latter seems like the more profitable approach.

There’s a lot to be done between now and next spring. He’ll have to make choices, she’ll have to figure out if she can afford another year, and we’ll have to determine just how we can get the two younger ones positioned to know what they want to do and have the scholarships to pave the way. Phew!

What has been your approach to post-high school with your children?


  1. I sure will read your blog. HE high school and preparing for college are subjects I find interesting.

  2. Glad to see a homeschool blog about older kids. My daughter started Community College classes when she was 16. (She's in her 3rd semester now.) We've been lucky to get scholarships from our church that paid for portions of two semesters. She should get her associate degree when she's 18 & then we'll have the last two years to pay for at University prices. I always thought that I'd be able to go back to work part-time by the time we were paying for college, but taking care of my mother has put that on hold. This spring, she'll be considered a high school graduate, so we'll be able to apply for more grants & scholarships. I'd love to hear homeschooler's experiences with those applications.
    Janet W

  3. One thing is for sure, you must be flexible enough to come up with plan B's and possibly C's, D's and E's. We graduated our two oldest sons five years ago. They both received some scholarships and took out some loans for what they were not able to cover during their college years. They both now have what we consider reasonable loan balances to repay, have done unpaid internships in the past year, and are both currently looking for employment. It's a challenge right now, and both are back home with us.

    Our third son did not receive any scholarships, but did get a paid internship this past summer so that helped a bit with his tuition this year. He is also participating in Air Force ROTC in order to offset college costs. We might be helping him out financially more than his brothers, but his need just happens to be greater. He is really stepping up and working hard, so we feel our confidence and finances are being well placed.

    We still have two more children to go. Our current plan is to go the 2 year community college route. I don't know yet whether we will help financially there or in the following schooling, but my husband and I attempt to balance practicality with support sans guilt. We help out with what we can, but do not see their education as our responsibility. Our retirement comes before that in our priorities.

    Ultimately, a great deal of prayer goes into our days and years, and trust in the One who will provide. This is a living walk of faith.

    I sometimes wonder if we could do any of this "smarter". Each year we learn new things, face new challenges, and grow more, which helps us with the next wave.


    Good blog post!


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