The cost of college education has been rising steadily over the past few decades. In the last five years alone, it has grown by 28.9 percent.
While the cost of attending a four-year in-state university was about $42,000 in 2021, the price is projected to be about $350,000 in 18 years—right after my two kids go to college.
When I look deeper into my financial plan, I tear myself apart. Should I be saving diligently for their education, or should I be putting the extra money into my own retirement account?
There are no pension loans
I’m well aware (and I hope you are too) that there are no retirement loans. But as someone who struggles very much with debt, the fact that my kids might have to take out several hundred thousand dollars in loans to get their degree is mind-numbing.
As a parent, the last thing you want is to send your children off on the wrong foot. The reality, however, is that student loans are available for college, but retirement loans are not. Compared to your child having to bear the burden of your financial support, it is much easier for them to mentally handle the financial burden of their own education.
In my opinion, your priority should always be to save enough money for your own retirement before putting money away for your kids’ college.
Alternative ways to pay for school
Student loans are not a necessity. There are countless people who worked their way through college but never took on any debt.
Although this is usually the exception rather than the rule, it can be done. Here’s how:
Scholarships: By getting good grades in high school, students have a better chance of applying for college scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships available, and while they can take a long time to complete, the rewards are worth it.
Work training programs: Work-study programs can help students pay for tuition, room, board, and other college expenses. What makes work-study programs so great is that they don’t affect eligibility for financial aid.
Part-time: While working and going to school may mean slightly lower grades and a longer time to graduate, the pros can far outweigh the cons — especially if most of the income goes toward tuition. Having to work for money also gives your kids a chance to understand the effort it takes to earn a dollar and the value of money and hard work. If it teaches them to be more disciplined in their spending, then their paycheck is worth a lot more than the dollars on the charge card.
Community College: Community colleges can be a cost-effective way for students to get their first two years of education. It will also give the student more time to figure out exactly what field of study to pursue.
State College: Admission to a private college costs three times as much. According to The College Board, the average in-state tuition for 2021-2022 was $10,338, while a private college cost a whopping $38,185.
To pay or not to pay?
I would really hate for my kids to graduate with a ton of student debt. At the same time, I want my children to learn to value money and hard work. I believe that having to pay part of the way through school can teach them that. Not to mention I also want to make sure I have enough saved up for retirement.
In an ideal world, I would pay most of the bill and have my kids do the rest. In the meantime, I will take it day by day and do my best to save for both my retirement and their education.
How do you feel about saving for your children’s college education? Is it a priority?
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