Ponderings on college costs and savings (t-1)

  • As of this writing (which is a month or two before the posting [update: the stock market has dropped more since then]), DC1 has $237,800 in hir 529.  This is a drop from a high of $275,000 last November (and a drop from $258,000 the last time I posted about it), but also it’s the same amount that zie had in there last February, so it’s only market gains that got lost.
  • It’s so weird thinking about “real” vs. not “real” money.  Like, it’s real money when I put it in there because we earned it.  And it’s real money when it comes out, because I can like, use it and stuff.  But while it’s in there… not real.  That’s the only way to stay sane with the stock market I think.
  • I’ll have to think about how to withdraw the money next year, if we get a choice about that.  Like it would make sense, I think, to withdraw from the stable income and let the stock market stuff float, maybe?  But I haven’t really given it much thought.  It will also matter if we’re planning to withdraw everything within 4 years or just a portion and leave the rest for DC2.  (Which will depend on what schools DC1 gets into.)
  • DC1 says it’s a requirement for high school for hir to fill out the FAFSA.  Which is a great idea and totally understandable, but there’s no way that we’re going to qualify for financial aid at any school.  We just have too much cash, on top of having a combined income that doesn’t qualify most places.  Maybe if we move to a blue coast and buy a 2 million dollar house (thus having a monthly mortgage and getting rid of our taxable money).  But not now.
  • Estimated cost of Harvey Mudd over 4 years:  $339,584.  Though that does include living expenses.
  • Huh, the deluxe meal plan only covers 16 meals a week.   I guess they assume people sleep through breakfast?  I feel like I was on a 19 meal plan when I was in college (3 meals/day M-F, Brunch and Dinner on weekends), but maybe I’m misremembering.
  • I’m already mentally planning nuts.com care packages for DC1.  I really hope zie ends up at a school with a good dining hall because I am not convinced zie can feed hirself otherwise.
  • Estimated total cost of state school over four years:  $120K (but probably actually less than that because living expenses seem pretty inflated in their estimates).  Not including living expenses it would be under $50K.

22 Responses to “Ponderings on college costs and savings (t-1)”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    We just finished our Fafsa. Even though we don’t qualify for financial aid, it’s still required to get merit aid and student loans correct?

    I had more cash than I thought when I added up all my squirreling places but still not enough to foot a fancy school’s costs. I also didn’t realize the 529 cash I put in for my niece and nephew would count against my own kid’s numbers but duh, they are my assets so it logically makes sense.

    My alma mater is in the mudd range and my kid is applying there. I didn’t think he’d like it because it’s small but surprisingly, it’s in his top 5.

    I have some EE bonds in my emergency fund that are approaching maturity and not making a lot of interest. Those will probably get used first.

    Most of my two income friends with healthy 529s did get merit aid from privates so I have some hope. Although some also had kids with 1500s on sats. A couple of the schools we are applying to like Clemson have automatic merit aid based on SAT scores and my kid scored high enough to qualify. (it basically erases the out of state upcharge).

  2. CG Says:

    Wow, that really underscores the values of in-state public schools. We are so hoping our kids get into the state flagship. Then we can help them pay for fancy grad/professional school if they need it. If DC1 decided to go to your state school and you moved out of state partway through hir time there, how would that affect in-state status? I understand ze is not planning on going there, but just curious.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know how our in state status would be affected given DC1 will be under 18 for the first couple years. At 18 our status shouldn’t matter given DC1 graduated from high school here and will have lived here. Disclaimer: I am not a professional and have not done deep research into this question.

      Funny story— I asked DC1 to double check that zie had sent hir transcript and SAT score to the state flagship last night and the website was like congratulations you have been accepted. No email or snail mail acceptance but worst case scenario zie will be able to major in econ at the state flagship. (I assume they will let us know if DC1 gets into computer science, which is competitive instead of automatic.)

      There are a couple state schools in our state that give major scholarships—from full tuition to full everything plus a guaranteed spot in the honors college—for national merit kids. I have a slightly better understanding now of the well-off parents who told my friends they couldn’t go to UChicago/notre dame/Cornell etc. and had to go to a state school (not our flagship, but sometimes another state’s flagship) with a full ride instead. Still not making that decision for DC1. (Plus I don’t think it worked out as well as one of the big name schools would have for them, but who knows if that’s the effect of the school or the parental support.)

      • CG Says:

        Congrats to DC1! I remember the feeling of relief when I got my first acceptance letter. It meant I was definitely going to college somewhere!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Thanks! It was an automatic acceptance which we knew would happen, but still, it is nice. Probably would have been more exciting if it had come in an email or actual letter.

      • CG Says:

        Ah, I see…ours is far from automatic so it will be a big deal if our kids get in.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s not automatic for everyone— but if you fit certain gpa/class rank/etc kinds of things they have to let you in. They do let in people through regular admissions too.

        Also getting into the preferred major is competitive. All DC1 is guaranteed is getting into the college of liberal arts for a few majors (econ being the one chosen), but zie really wants to be in the college of engineering and the computer science major. That’s not guaranteed!

      • Matthew D Healy Says:

        Rules vary among States for in-state tuition. For number of years my late father was on the faculty committee at his campus that heard appeals of adverse residency decisions; I gather the rules could be complicated.

  3. delagar Says:

    My kid went to the flagship state school. It took him four and a half years — would have taken longer, but he did a lot of AP classes in HS which meant he didn’t have to take the corresponding gen ed classes.

    Anyway, it cost us right around $10,000/semester. That’s living expenses, books, tuition. So around $90,000 total.

    • delagar Says:

      Tuition was the least expensive part of this, by the way — it was around five thousand a semester, but he had a scholarship and I got a discount of 40% because I teach in the state system. Rent was the most expensive part — the cheapest place we could find was $700/month. Which is more than I pay for an entire house.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It is crazy to me how so many of these state schools can’t guarantee dorms even for freshmen. Seems like a lot of what one is paying for with a fancy private school is being able to not worry about going on the regular housing market as a teenager. And state schools in some cities have trouble with building restrictions limiting things like high-rise apartment buildings. I was reading about the housing situation at UC Santa Cruz the other day and they just have no housing stock and no easy commute from neighboring areas.

      • delagar Says:

        The dorms were MORE expensive than an apartment, even though we had him in the cheapest dorm (the school requires Freshmen to live on campus unless living with their parents). And the meal plan was crazy expensive.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is crazy too! Especially since so many dorms require doubles or more in a single room.

        It came to me yesterday although I think DC1 is mature enough to live in a dorm situation, I do not have the slightest idea how a rental market is going to look at a 16 year old. And DH didn’t pick particularly safe neighborhoods when he was working summers at his undergrad even as a young adult. (One place memorably had big dogs outside and you couldn’t use the living room at all or the burglar alarm would go off and you had to temporarily disable it to use the kitchen.)

  4. Lisa Says:

    My oldest had to fill out the FAFSA last week, too. They were frantically texting me to ask what we make while I was teaching a class. I was in no hurry to respond because a) I was teaching! and b) there is no way we qualify for any student aid. It sounds like there was an option to leave the income off and “talk to a counselor” about it, I wonder if that will count as a complete form or if we should revisit.

    They also took the PSAT last week, but I’m not sure I’m going to push them to take the SAT or ACT. How many schools still require these scores? We’re pretty sure the kid will end up going to our state flagship, where I teach and get 50% tuition. On-campus housing is a nightmare these days and we live close by so there is really no reason not to live at home. All of this would add up to very modest college costs. I feel a little badly about not giving them a more traditional liberal arts college experience (both DH and I attended the state school and lived at home, we feel like we missed out on some things but can’t complain much about the outcomes). But I’d strongly encourage a study abroad or similar experience, which could make up for that. And they are planning to go to grad school of some sort, which would be a great opportunity to move away. We’ll see.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In addition to the counselor box we also had a “parents and child refuse” box and a “parents refuse” box. It counted as complete when we signed one of those options. I can’t believe they didn’t send it home so you could actually look at the W2s etc. to fill it out.

      Most schools don’t require SAT/ACT from what we can tell. But national merit is pretty sweet (a number of schools will give them complete full rides if they don’t want to stay at home) and that will require the SAT (but you’ll know next year if that’s an option and can choose to take it then).

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I very much think of the money in the market the same way. It’s real going in, real coming out but not real while it lives there. I also think of my emergency money that way too, just in the abstract, because even though that IS real money, I’m not touching it.

    Oh my goodness, nuts.com! I’m putting together an order for a friend’s classroom and had sent fruity and starchy snacks but nuts.com has an awesome variety to pick from too. Appreciate the reminder and link.

    Also O_O for school costs. Eeeeps at thinking of JB in ten+ years going into this phase of life. I really hope they’re mature enough and we’ll have prepared them as well as they need by then.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    My meal plan (in ancient times) had 20 meals/week, and I thought it was weird that they thought we would suddenly have ways to eat on Sunday nights. I know I ate out sometimes, but I sure couldn’t afford to do it all the time. I don’t remember what I did the other times.

    In grad school I once lived in a dorm for the summer because they didn’t require the meal plan (which was more expensive than the dorm part). When I moved in, I asked where the kitchen was. No kitchen! And you were still not allowed to have a toaster oven or microwave. We were allowed to have that device that boils water. And a dorm fridge. That was a tough summer–I had to get very creative!

    I wonder which 16 meals are covered. Maybe only weekdays plus one other meal? Maybe all but weekday breakfasts or lunches? I guess for one meal a day you can have cereal or sandwiches or salad or fruity yogurt or whatever if you have no cooking skills and/or facilities.

    My boyfriend got sucked into cooking for his church in college which he greatly enjoyed. And they greatly encouraged him because people liked his cooking and he could stay within budget. I think the church provided a meal for its members (and their friends?) once a week. He went to a big state school. Who knows what all is out there.

    On FAFSA requirements, it’s kind of cool that it’s required, because then everyone will have heard of it in time. But it’s like taxes–how can someone without all the documents even guess at the numbers?

    My dad had his own business and would always be optimistic about his expected income. I didn’t know at the time to tell him that it’s okay and traditional to just put last year’s numbers. This basically worked out fine except that one year when he went bankrupt. Oops!

    • Matthew D Healy Says:

      When I was an undergrad the meal plan was 20 meals so I went various places on Sunday night. When DW and I met in grad school in the 1980s it was still 20 meals there so the Episcopal Student Center offered a weekly dinner for a mixture of grad students like us (who mostly lived off campus and cooked for ourselves when we had time or heated Ramen when we didn’t) and undergrads. People took turns volunteering to procure ingredients and cook. For the two of us, it was fun preparing a larger scale meal than our usual cooking for two; for the on-campus undergrads it was a chance to have something that wasn’t institutional.

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