Ask the grumpies: If not money, how to get your kids to care about college?

First Gen American asks:

Is there another way for college kids to have some skin in the game without going into loads of debt?

I mean, college is about their lives and their choices and their opportunities and outcomes.  It is 100% their skin in the game.  Even if you’re paying for it monetarily.

What they learn and the skills they receive are going to shape their lives and make them better able to have whatever future they envision for themselves.  The future is rapidly changing and not cutting off too many avenues (ex. being able to write, being able to understand our multi-cultured society, etc.) will help them adapt to or even shape the future world they will be living in.

Maybe encourage them to go on the applying to colleges subreddit?  It’s full of kids who care a lot about academics who are saying a lot of the same things that we told DC1 (you need extra curriculars!), which has given us a bit of a “you were right all along” glow.

[Editor’s note:  Wow!  This week really has been all about colleges!]

Number of babies born in the US by year from 1978-2020

I was playing around with birth number statistics.  (Note there’s a small change in 2006 about where the data came from– the numbers are really similar for the overlap between 1990 and 2006 but in general, the numbers from 2006+ are usually just a little bit lower than their counterparts from the other dataset, generally in the 1,000s place.  The numbers for 2005 in both datasets are very similar.)

Here’s what you get if you plot out raw numbers.  This doesn’t include immigration or mortality or anything like that.  Also no information about education or income or race or socioeconomic status.  Just raw numbers.

Many kids applying to elite colleges this year were born in or around 2004/5.

There will be some red-shirted and otherwise delayed kids who were born a year or two before then.  And, of course, the pandemic gap year kids (kids who deferred a year and then made the next accepted college class smaller at many elite schools, which caused kids who didn’t get in where they wanted to delay a year etc.) are still moving through.  And there’s kids who would never have applied to elite colleges before who are now encouraged to do so through QuestBridge (this is really great– work by Carolyn Hoxby and Susan Dynarski has been pushing for connecting these kids to elite schools and it’s fantastic that’s actually happening now).  And international students no longer have to prove that they are rich to attend US colleges like they did at the turn of the century.  So those are a few additional causes of competition for elite schools.

But still, the raw numbers are important.  (There’s something called the Easterlin Hypothesis that talks about the effects of cohort size on economic outcomes– this is part of that theoretical thread.)

And while the number of colleges has no doubt changed, what is defined as elite and how many schools are considered elite maybe hasn’t as much.

So… if your kids are applying to elite schools, is their college application experience going to be different than yours?  YES.  How much different?  Well.. what cohort did you apply to college with?  What cohort are your kids applying to college in?

A nice thing about this chart is the knowledge that if we hadn’t let DC1 skip a couple grades, there would be even more competition for slots.  Of course, zie would (probably) be more accomplished as well and wouldn’t be only 16, so that would help too.  DC2 has a bit more leeway as zie was born in the middle of kind of a flat fertility period, though zie may be facing more competition from red-shirted and gap year kids.

(Note that a lot of people making predictions about how hard it is to get into college are focusing on the *birth rate*, which will be dropping if what they say is correct.  The Birth Rate is calculated by dividing the number of live births in a year by the mid-year resident population.  The reason the birth number is going up but the birth rate is going down is because of the denominator, not the numerator.  Personally I think the numerator is more important to college admissions 17-18 years later.  Lots of other stuff goes into who is applying to college, as mentioned before the graph, but the mid-year resident population the year a kid was born probably isn’t a first order thing.)


  • As predicted, SLAC day (this year, Friday, March 17th, with a few stragglers Saturday morning) was a blood bath.
  • Still, to spoil a bit, DC1 ended the weekend with a couple more amazing possibilities.
  • In order.
  • Williams:  Reject
  • Bowdoin:  Waitlist
  • Haverford:  Waitlist
  • Swarthmore:  Reject
  • DC1 was feeling pretty down at this point.  Zie had fallen in love with Haverford during the supplemental essays.
  • Carleton:  Accept!!!!  Only 2K/year scholarship though.
  • Oberlin:  Accept!!!!  30K/year scholarship!!!!
  • Case Western:  Waitlist
  • So this complicates DC1’s decisions quite a bit.  Macalester, Oberlin, and Union would all be about 50K/year (plus or minus a few thousand and probably going up a couple thousand each year).  Carleton is almost full price– over 80K.  We told DC1 to ignore prices, but man, 120K is so much money.  (Still, we are going to ignore prices, and if DC1 chooses Carleton, then Carleton is where zie will go.)
  • DC1 had completely fallen in love with Macalester– the bagpipes, the blue plaid, the city, the food, etc. etc. etc.
  • But Carleton is consistently a top 10 SLAC (this year #6).
  • Carleton is also ranked as one of the best SLAC schools for computer science (but… so is Claremont McKenna and … they don’t really have much CS and HMC and Pomona are both cracking down on CMC students in their classes– I assume CMC will devote more resources to in-house CS and pair up with either HMC or Pomona for a joint major, but..)  (Really, either Pomona or HMC should restructure and CS should become a 5C major like math, but I digress.  And I understand why HMC might not want to do that.).
  • As Leah pointed out, Carleton is also Bon Appetit and has excellent food.
  • And Carleton is across the way from St. Olaf which is a wonderful place for music. (You can cross register, but the Carleton trimester only matches up with the St. Olaf semester one trimester per year and it delays you going home and defrosting during winter.)
  • But… also really hard to beat Oberlin for Music.
  • It’s crazy how much Oberlin has dropped in the rankings since I was in high school.  The right-wing media also seems to have chosen them as a whipping boy for manufactured anti-left outrage.  (They should pick on Reed who would probably get great joy out of the manufactured controversy and fight back!  Which is likely why they don’t.)
  • Oberlin has a cafeteria service I’ve never heard of:  Avi.  I haven’t figured out how they’re rated because of the aforementioned manufactured right-wing controversies about a Vietnamese International student complaining that the Bahn Mi was not actually Bahn Mi and shouldn’t be called such.  But unlikely to be at Bon Appetit level, hopefully sodexho level, but who knows.
  • Carleton offers a 20/week meal plan which is all the meals they offer plus some additional Carleton cash (which has some fancy name) that can be used at the cafes on campus.  Also they share their meal plan with St. Olaf.
  • There’s no Poke in Northfield, MN.
  • But it is 50 min away from a poke place in St. Paul.  I wonder if there are uber drivers in Northfield.  (Surely there are enterprising college students with cars?)
  • Carleton is on trimesters, which I find confusing.  They say it’s an intense 10 weeks and if you get sick, it’s especially difficult.  Only 3 classes per trimester (and unlike Union, they don’t recommend more, unless you’re taking a lab which adds about 1/3 of a class in terms of credit hours.)
  • DC1 is planning on exploring the CS options, the music options, how easy it will be to double major or minor (including how many credits are allowed from AP/college classes), etc. etc. etc.  Also what students say on places like Niche.
  • Apparently Union accepted DC1 early– their official date for releases was also SLAC week.  No wonder there were only 78 kids on their accepted students forums!
  • We are so relieved and elated though.  These acceptances are all WONDERFUL schools and we would be happy if DC1 chose any of them.  Even with the extra $120K in tuition (I tell myself it’s going to fund a low income kid like college-me was).  Such an abundance of options.
  • I did tear up at the Oberlin scholarship– I really was not expecting any money from them.  We don’t need it (it’s the difference of just using up the 529 or also cash flowing 30K/year, which we can do so long as we’re both working full time, and we have money in savings and stocks that we could still use in the event of a jobloss).
  • To forestall the question:  No, we will not be visiting any of these.  I have never found college visits to be helpful beyond what’s in the Fiske guide and just talking to people, and sometimes they are actively misleading.  (Caltech, I’m looking at you!)  More importantly, DC1 is taking Calc 3 at the university MWF and can’t miss any classes (and we didn’t have these acceptances in hand until after Spring Break).
  • Still waiting for Wesleyan (they decide on a different weekend than all the other prominent east coast SLACs) and Vanderbilt.  If zie gets into Vandy, I have no idea where to even go with that.  Still, it’s not my decision.

What would you choose if it were you (and your parents were wealthy) and why?  Union College (NY), Macalester College (MN), Carleton College (MN), or Oberlin College (OH).  Also what would you look into and what questions would you ask?


  • All the new projects I said yes to in September and October are suddenly actually starting.
  • DC1 told me the reason Coldplay is so compelling is because they never resolve their chords?  They just sort of fade out?
  • DH’s company is one of the ones that helped with the run on that bank that failed.  Thankfully they did get all the money (except the FDIC insured 250K, which really needs to be increased, given inflation) out in time.  But fixing that took all of Thursday + Friday for their lead management/HR/admin people, so they didn’t make a couple job offers they’d meant to.  So DH emailed someone a congratulatory email and got back a… but I haven’t gotten an offer yet?
  • Update:  looks like all deposits will be covered by the FDIC, not just those up to 250K, which is nice (and there wouldn’t have been a run and the bank wouldn’t have failed had depositors known that, but I digress).  They really do need to increase those limits though– it’s been 250K for as long as I can remember and there’s been a lot of inflation since then.
  • Apparently there is additional insurance banks can buy to protect assets larger than 250K.  Maybe that should be mandatory…
  • Waitlisted Grinnell.
  • Accepted to Union college (the one in NY) with a 30k/year scholarship.  That means zie can actually major in computer science instead of economics (hir only other acceptance was the state flagship but not for the school of engineering).  Union also has biomedical engineering and I think DC1 has enough credits and higher-level classes that zie could double major relatively easily.
  • Accepted to Macalester with a 23K/year scholarship!  I’m excited about this because Macalester is just a fantastic environment.  They’re even named the top college (or one of the top colleges) for LGBTQ+ students in the US on various lists.  (Among other things, they’re really good about all gender housing and bathrooms.)  DC1 considers hirself to currently be asexual (but may be demisexual or something else) and cisgender, so it’s not a direct issue for hir, but a place that is tops for marginalized people is generally a good place for everyone.
  • Macalester has lower tuition than Union so even though the scholarship is lower, it’s not actually that different in price.  Plus Macalester is upfront about likely going up 2K/year.
  • After the Union acceptance, which was the first one where DC1 could actually major in something zie wants to major in, it was like a huge ball of anxiety and stress that had been hanging over our heads just melted away.  After the Macalester acceptance, there was some actual elation.  I can definitely see DC1 being happy and cozy there.  Union I’m a little more worried about because it has a heavy frat presence and a heavy prep-school NY/NJ presence.  But a lot of people on the internet assure other worried people that there’s also a non-Greek nerd contingent that throws board-game and D&D parties instead of keggers.
  • Oddly, I’ve somehow gathered a lot of information on dining hall services quality over the years.  Sodexo is fine, but not great.  That’s what Union has.  There are a lot of complaints about the food from people who prefer healthier fare, but like, it’s still fine.  More of a focus on cheap comfort food (= deep fried), but not terrible.  Marriott and Bon Appetit are both actually pretty good, especially for things like salad bars and always having healthy items that taste fine.  Macalester has Bon Appetit and people generally like the food.
  • It’s weird, but my biggest worry is that skinny DC1 will just not eat if zie doesn’t like the food.  So I’m hoping for food to be good and available.  (Also will probably do shipments if DC1 doesn’t have an allergic roommate.)
  • My second biggest worry was having to find off-campus housing hirself as a teenager.  Since zie won’t be going to the flagship state school anymore, that’s not going to be a concern (they don’t even guarantee dorm housing for freshmen!).  I love elite private SLACs so much.  (UCSC apparently also does not have enough housing for freshmen, even though it’s an elite SLAC, but a public one.)
  • DC1 might still prefer Union over Macalester if zie wants to double major in engineering.  There really aren’t a whole lot of small liberal arts colleges that offer engineering and are more than say, 30% female (like with LGBTQ+ students, being good for female students generally also means they’re good for everybody).
  • Next weekend will be a bloodbath– all the remaining SLACs that DC1 applied to.  Then another week to hear from Vanderbilt.  (One of these schools is not like the others…)
  • Going through the college results reddit, a lot of people who got waitlisted or even rejected at Grinnell got into objectively better schools (one person even got into Harvard(!)).  They really must be looking for something different than a lot of these other schools are looking for, or they’re good at yield protection.
  • Macalester is sending DC1’s choice of warm socks or a puff-ball hat.  They are both adorable.  DC1 chose the socks after I promised that if zie decides to go to Macalester we would purchase hir a branded hat.  (We would have purchased the socks if zie had chosen the hat, but the reasoning is zie will wear the socks wherever zie ends up, but the hat only at cold colleges… which is all of them that are left except Vanderbilt.)
  • Word on the internet is that Grinnell’s dining hall had some massive problems last year,  I don’t know what company they use.  They did just fully unionize the dining hall workers including student workers though.

I feel like the word for this academic year has been rejection

I’ve gotten so much rejection this year.  Two papers have been rejected about once every month or two for a lot of months.

Flown out for a pre-job interview and rejected by the dean during my last meeting.

Not even conference interviews for the other places I applied– as if I hadn’t sent anything.  Is that better than thank you for applying but we’re not interested?  Maybe?

A grant proposal made it to the second stage and was then rejected.

DC1’s rejections aren’t mine, but there have been two three of those too.  (Update: ED2 rejection from Pomona.)

Heck, even my request to be reimbursed for my own copy of Stata was rejected.

It’s hard to have so much rejection without a single acceptance in between.  Not even a revise and resubmit, other than that grant that eventually got rejected.

Meanwhile my colleague who does no service but got all the internal money has gotten publications and grants.  We were pretty close research-wise when the money was initially assigned and now she’s doing much better while I’m just getting rejected at lower tier journals.

I’m burned out.  I don’t have any ideas.  I’m not excited about my current work.  I’m worried if I write it up and send it out I will have nothing left in the pipeline.  So I’m not writing it up, which is also no good.  I’m on leave and I’m dreading going back to work next year– we’re starting a new program and hiring 6 people and I can’t see me having time to do anything.  Which makes it even harder to get excited about new potential projects, even if I had any in mind.

I would quit except I’m afraid if I quit without having anything to go to that I will get severely depressed.  I worry that if I don’t keep busy I will have to contend with my thoughts and I don’t think this is something therapy would help me with.  I know me pretty well.

I feel like I should end this with an optimistic note, because I am generally an optimistic person.  Lives are long.  Work doesn’t have to define me.  We have enough saved that we could just move and I could quit without a job.  And maybe we should, I don’t know.

Update:  After getting this off my chest I actually got a paper out and restarted the next almost done project that needs to be completed.  So I’m a bit less down on myself and will be less down until the next rejection.  I still have some leave left and time to do more.  I can keep going forward!  I also met with one of my overworked colleagues and we strategized about what we need to keep from burnout and we’re going to meet with the chair next week.  I’ll let you know if that also results in rejection.

DC1 is taking Calc 3… and I just realized we can probably use the 529 to pay it

After a huge amount of fighting with the admissions office and us getting a meningitis vaccine waiver even though DC1 got the vaccine more than 2 weeks before the semester started (long story that increases my blood pressure– but the vaccine waiver turned out to be way easier than getting admissions to accept the doctor’s note), DC1 finally got admitted to take Calc 3 at my uni.  Fortunately there’s an 8am class that fits with hir schedule, although I’m the one who is going to have to do the chauffeuring most days.  It took a lot of back and forth with scheduling to get all the various holds removed (most not applicable because DC1 is a high school student, not an enrolled student), but fortunately they had held the last available spot for hir (8am was also the last section to close).

The day classes started, we got a bill for tuition which is about 2K.  I had completely forgotten about it!   (I knew we were going to have to pay, but it had just slipped my mind, and really shouldn’t they have sent the bill earlier?)

Anyhow, I realized that we can probably use DC1’s 529 to pay for this.  Stock markets are down, so it’s tempting to wait them out… and we also don’t know if DC1 is going to use up hir 529 funds, but it seems pretty likely given that zie doesn’t want to be an economics major at the state flagship and all the other options are private schools.  And we can always move the beneficiary around to DC2 or go through a more complicated path for a nibling.

There’s also the new 529 conversion to Roth IRA that makes having a 529 plan more valuable.

I didn’t even think to use the 529 when DC1 took C++ over the summer online during the pandemic.  It probably would have made sense to take money out and put new money in to replace it.

In ~two months we will know where DC1 will be going along with how much we should expect to pay for the 4 years.  If I am reading correctly, we have until the end of December 2023 to decide whether or not we want to take money out of the 529 to play for DC1’s Calc 3 class.

My friend whose son is going to Brown is cashflowing this semester (out of income and cash savings) because she’s hoping the stock market rebounds before they take money from their 529.  They don’t have as much in their 529 and they have a younger child as well, so this makes some sense.  I think we’ll probably just take money out for college until it’s gone for next year no matter what the stock market is doing, but that logic suggests we should take money out now to reimburse for the class as well.  But also $2K seems like drops in the bucket compared to what we’ll be paying for a private school next year, assuming DC1 gets at least one acceptance.  It’s so easy to be lazy.

Have you taken money out of a 529 to pay for tuition?  How easy was it?  Any regrets?


  • MIL’s surgery went well.  Now 4-6 weeks of recovery.  Hopefully the cancer is gone and additional treatment won’t be required.
  • [update]  They’re thinking it’s stage 2 so there will probably be radiation.  :(
  • Case Western is killing me with emails– like 2/day to not just DC1’s email account, but also my email account and the family junk mail account (which is technically DH’s junk email).  I tried to unsubscribe my email earlier, but it unsubscribed all three.  Then I tried to remove mine when we resubscribed DC1, but I’m still getting the @#$23ing emails.  Then I googled it and found out that last year they withdrew submitted (and paid!) applications from people who unsubscribed from their @#$2ing emails.  Not a good look Case Western.
  • We were thinking we’d have heard from the state school major by now since DC1 applied early action, but apparently they’ve only notified a very small group of nationally recognized people who are definitely also in the honors program a month ago.  If they had said yes, then DC1 probably would have applied to fewer colleges.  If they had said no, then DC1 would probably have applied to more colleges.
  • I feel so terrible that DC1 tried for the early action deadline when it’s not actually helping to get the response any earlier AND DC1 didn’t submit rec letters there because of it.  The essays were fine but not amazing too, and they would have been better with more practice, though this WAS practice for the other schools so I’m not sure what order zie should have applied.  I’m so worried that DC1 may have to go through all of this again next year because zie really doesn’t want to be an economics major and shouldn’t be an economics major so zie can’t stay at the flagship longer than a year.  Surely DC1 will get in somewhere zie applied in the major zie wants.  Ideally a SLAC where zie can also double major in music composition or something equally fun.
  • Did you know that the common app limits you to applying to 20 schools?
  • I have to remind myself that it’s DC1’s life.  But it’s still so stressful.  I wanted hir to stay at home another year and go to college locally if things don’t pan out, but that application deadline has passed and DC1 wants to be living in a dorm next year.  I wish zie could go to a residential high school, and there are prep schools that do take high school graduates, but it’s not the same (and they don’t have enough math and science classes).  And why pay college tuition without getting college credits?  And I dunno, new england prep students aren’t the same as the slice of the state students from our residential high school.
  • DC1 added a couple additional SLACs at the end.  The Carleton essay was probably the easiest from scratch essay– DC1 does very well with straight forward questions.  This one asked what zie would do for a senior thesis and why.  DC1 decided to create a text-based independent game (and compose all the music for it).  Describing that and why was a much quicker write than dealing with Haverford’s open-ended honor code question.  Amherst never made it to the list because of its questions, just like when I applied.  Who is willing to answer those questions?  Not even the same people willing to apply to University of Chicago because at least the U of C questions have a certain absurdity to them.  Amherst questions just do not compute with our way of life.  (I find the math one this year kind of insulting– it has a strong learned astronomer vibe to it.)
  • But thank goodness they’re done and we can all just put this out of our minds until responses from the colleges start coming in.
  • I find the constant advice to touch grass really irritating.  Some of us are allergic to grass!


  • DH’s mom is scheduled for surgery mid-January (there are preparation appointments before then).  Her meeting with the surgeon just after Christmas was really hopeful, and he seemed very optimistic and calming about everything.  Over Christmas she seemed really energetic and like her usual self.  That is all very hopeful.
  • My SIL has a lot of artistic hobbies that she starts up and somehow masters over the course of a year.  Her most recent is knitting—she went from no knitting at all to impressive-looking sweaters and cardigans.  I knitted for years as a kid and never really mastered scarves.  She’s also got an impressive yarn collection which is a reason I no longer knit (knitting gets to be an expensive and space-needing hobby)… (that and not really needing scarves in our climate).
  • Her previous hobbies include water color, drawing, novel writing (she still does this and self-publishes—they are very good), calligraphy… I’m not sure what else.
  • My hobbies are this blog, reading novels, and watching YouTube videos.  I guess the blog is creating.  But really I am more of a consumer.
  • I’m not jealous but I am a bit in awe of people who can create.  DC1 composes and that blows my mind.  I don’t have the expertise to judge but I really enjoy hir music and it seems super impressive to me.
  • I’m not sure I have much of an imagination (it seems to be mostly used up in determining probable future scenarios and how to plan for them).  And I know my fine motor skills aren’t great.  My difficulty with left and right probably doesn’t help either.  Perhaps with practice and free time I could do something but there are so many people who can do so many amazing things that I’m happy to be a consumer of art rather than a producer.
  • DC1 added more schools to hir college list.  By the time this is published hopefully all applications will be in, including the music supplements.  We will see what happens!
  • Also turns out DC1 has been living a secret life where zie has been creating online games with other people online.  That has been turned into several college essays and an extracurricular line.  DC1 reports that the outschool essay person said it was, “unique” but wasn’t sure if she meant that in a good “interesting/breath of fresh air” way or a less good “maybe don’t” sort of way.
  • A lot of these essay questions are about how people with different viewpoints have changed the way you think about things.  DC1 has a lot of stories zie can tell, about friends and relatives with autism, blindness, amusia (“that’s interesting! I hadn’t heard of that before,” said both I and later the college essay person), as well as a trans best friend from elementary and middle school, in a state where it’s dangerous to be out.  But DC1 says that zie feels uncomfortable centering hirself as the protagonist in what are really other people’s stories.  (I was like, that sounds great!  You don’t have room for it in your Pomona essay, but you can add that as a first paragraph to your Williams essay! Question the question and demonstrate you do listen to diverse experiences but are a level beyond the question! But DC1, who is genuinely a good person, just narrowed hir eyes at me and said nothing.  Then added humor to make up the additional 50 words.)
  • Macalester wants 500 words on why St. Paul/Minneapolis is such a great place to live.  I think it’s a brainwashing technique and wonder how successful it is.  Also, now I kind of want to go to St. Paul because there’s an ice cream place there that gets its ice cream from the Wisconsin-Madison dairy and has turtle sundaes.  (We don’t have turtle sundaes in the South.)  Though really, there are other places in the Midwest we could go to to get them (like, maybe, Wisconsin-Madison itself). There are also at least 17 poke-first restaurants in the MSA and many other restaurants that also have Poke on the menu.
  • I’ve been having odd cravings for boba tea that aren’t sated by actually getting boba tea.  Too bad tapioca doesn’t have the same nutritional profile as gelatin!
  • I think I may have the most fun at conference meals when I don’t know many of the people and I don’t think I will likely meet them again.  I think the last part is key– I like meeting new people but I have enormous social anxiety, which isn’t there if I think it’s just a one time thing.
  • DC1 has gotten a lot better writing college essays since we started.  I really hate the early decision process– not that I think the outcome would have been better if zie had waited to apply to HMC regular decision, but zie still would have put hir best foot forward, instead of hir best foot from before the process started.

Ask the grumpies: Do procrastinators sink or swim come college time?

First Gen American asks:

How many of your chronic procrastinator students sink vs swim come college time? Asking for a friend.

If you’re talking about my students here at the R1 where I work… most of them do just fine.  They’re smart and they’re good at pulling things off last minute.  Sure, they might get Bs instead of As, and maybe the occasional C, but they’re fine.  It’s not that hard for procrastinators who were good enough to get into the school to do fine in my major.  Because generally they’re smart or they couldn’t have procrastinated and gotten in.

If you’re talking about student at say, MIT or Caltech… not so much.  There is a lot of sinking.  The people who do well aren’t necessarily the smartest (smart, definitely, but necessarily super-geniuses) but they’re the ones who can handle failure and know how to work hard and start early.

Which reminds me also:  DH taught in an engineering major at my R1, and his students were definitely sinking.  They’d sunk out of one major and into his and many of them were on their way to Political Science (where they would likely be fine) or just dropping out.

In the above two engineering situations, people were smart enough to get in and had enough flex in their high schools to be able to deal with procrastination, but they couldn’t cut it once they got to college.

Academic Grumpeteers, what’s been your experience with procrastinators?

Ask the grumpies: Will your kids be paying a portion of their college costs?

bogart asks:

[Are] people are planning to have their kids pay a portion of college costs and if so, how much.

Background: I have 1 kid and expect to be able to afford to send him anywhere (this is more a function of an employer’s tuition benefit than household wealth, though we are not comfortably off). Both I and my stepkids (whose college I also helped pay for) graduated college with some debt, not an obscene amount (let’s say 1/3 of our first year’s anticipated salary had we gotten an entry-level college-graduate job). I’m inclined to expect roughly the same for my DC, with him either working summers (or whatever) and/or taking on (sensibly financed) student loans. But at this point that’s just a vague notion, not an actual plan. I’m interested to learn what others’ thoughts are on the pros/cons of college kids investing some of their own current/future $$$ on their education, with a note that I definitely know that needing to work lots while in college creates lots of problems for lots of people and don’t want that for DC. And also whether DC does or doesn’t cover what I’m (vaguely) thinking of as a reasonable amount isn’t going to have a big impact on our household’s financial well-being one way or the other. And that I realize I’m lucky and frighteningly privileged to be able to say that.

Related posts: Should parents pay for their childrens’ college?  You can read this deliberately controversial post for why we think the argument that people won’t care about their own education unless they’re paying for it themselves is not a great one.

We are planning on paying full tuition, basic living expenses, and textbooks/etc. expenses for our kids in college.  Probably we’ll also pitch in for one of those overpriced refrigerator/microwave units for the dorm room.  If there are any loans, we will take them on.

I figure they can pay for any extras (meals at restaurants… not sure what else… concert tickets?  plane tickets to visit significant others?  stuffed animals?) out of their earnings, either summer earnings or work during the school year.  My friend whose kid is at Brown is paying for full dining hall PLUS multiple restaurant nights a week, though she just had a conversation with him about that.  (But Mommmmm, the restaurants are so good here!)

Not sure about masters degrees– we will cross that bridge if we come to it.

I graduated with my parents paying the 0% interest subsidized loans they’d taken out on my behalf (we were very low income).  DH graduated with 10K of unsubisidized debt at ~8% interest that we scrimped like crazy to pay off ASAP.  I worked for spending money for extras during the school year and DH worked over the summers.

Paying college tuition is a great way to transfer money to the next generation while avoiding gift/inheritance taxes.  It also doesn’t have the problem of creating more expenses like giving someone a house downpayment would nor does it teach people to live large when they can’t really afford to like giving them cash or a fancy car would.  So if you can afford it, why not?

Leah adds:

I was super grateful that my mom helped me graduate debt free by picking up extra shifts nursing. I think the path to take depends on your family. I totally understood the value of what my mom did for me. I worked hard in college. I had a work study job, got extra scholarships each year, and worked for the school newspaper. There’s more than one way to teach being fiscally prudent. Do what works for your family.

Grumpy Nation:  Those of you who partook of higher education, who paid for it?  If applicable, what do you plan to do/did you do for your kids?