Telling Your Child No To College Debt

David Trammel's picture

I don't have children, so I don't have to worry about the cost of sending one of them to college. And frankly, as a blue collar worker, I usually tell those people I do know with children, to find them a trade school or apprenticeship program and skip college.

I found this article interesting from the viewpoint of parents who are faced with telling their child "No".

I Killed My Teenager’s Fancy College Dreams. You Should, Too.

"A couple months ago, my 17-year-old daughter’s guidance counselor called her into his office to ask pretty much the only question that adults ask high school seniors: “What colleges are you applying to?” When Ella tossed off a handful of universities, he said, “Have you thought about going to art school?”

By that afternoon, Ella was having a full-blown crisis of faith, because yes, she had thought pretty hard about art school. When her oil paintings started winning awards freshman year, her AP art teacher more or less told her that art school was her destiny, the only way not to squander her prodigious talents. Ella didn’t need convincing. She was so ready to bolt out of our small southwest Virginia town into a big city where she could paint all day that she had basically become a Lifetime movie cliché.

But for months she’d been shoving down all those painterly college fantasies of art school in New York. My husband and I had told her, point blank, we couldn’t afford it."


How do those of you with children, handle the pressure to go into debt?

mountainmoma's picture

The article says it right, the headline is misleading.

Because, once they are college age, you do not tell them what to do, they are 18 and over and adults. So, you discuss it with them like adults even when they are leading up to it, ages 15, 16, 17 or their whole lives, realy. Yes, I have 3 offspring and the youngest is in Vet school right now, others are out.

So we tell them what we can or cannot do to help them. We tell them what the debt means, how that changes how they live later. We cannot tell them "no" to their taking on student debt, it is their choice and their debt, they are adults. We can help them explore options, we can encourage them to live at home and commute to community college for the first 2 years ( my youngest did this, my middle child after changing majors did this then too), we point out others who do this, some peoples offspring I know commute to university, an hour each way to live at home to save money. We talk about how ridiculous it is, some of the people in articles who complain after taking on too much debt. Why should anyone take on $70,000 debt for a bachelors degree and now think we ( collectively, the tax payers) are supposed to pay for their bad decisions ?

My youngest, since wanting the vet career, was told what Dad had saved and so chose to "save" that for Vet school and get thru the bachelors without using it, chose to go to community college, transfer to university, also took enough college courses while in high school, and during the summer sessions, to get that bachelors in 3 years after high school graduation ( 1 more year community college, 2 at University), and also worked part time for most of this. Alot of this students transfer student friends had also done the same thing, community college, transferring, working all the way thru, graduate with bachelors degree with no debt and no or very little parental help. Some of them also in that dreaded "gap" category, too much money for extra grants, too little for parents to pay it all. They all also were at a public 4 university after transferring, less expensive than private school. Mine applied for and got an academic scholarship that wasn't well publicized, we almost missed knowing about it, Regents Scholar, was very helpful and cinched saving the savings for grad school. This student cooks all meals homemade, alot of kale and garbanzo beans, never turns on the airconditioning at the apartment, and so far this year, to my horror, has not turned on the heat ! That is too cold, and my opinion voiced was to please use the heat after the holidays. Bicycles to campus and works part time, sometines yes skipping lecture ( to later watch or listen to it, the present technology is useful for some things) , so in most ways is very frugal to try and make it on the savings and earnings.

There are also programs that can pay for college, like ROTC which will pay for all 4 years and a salary and you owe 4 years when done. The armed forces also have this for Vet school, and med school, very lucrative, full pay, all school tuitions paided for, summer employment, paid. You can do this and save money while in school. Then you owe 1 year in their intern program, paid, but then 3 more years doing whatever and whereever they need/want you., but at a very competititve, higher than in [rivate industry, pay. But, then you are, let's say 30 years old with no debt, a doctorate, work experience, and a ton of money ( if you are smart) in the bank to start up your own practice. So, realy, there are choices in alot of cases. My brother in law has his civil engineering degree paid for by the airforce, which is the way to go, school first, then give them the 4 years as an officer, then go do what you want.

University employees get free, or very reduced, tuition for their children. So, if, for example, your family lives by a university and has a few children and had a stay at home or lower earning parent, well, that parent can go work at the univeristy when the kids hit high school. Anything, food service, cleaning, anything. At UC Davis, which is the one I looked up, that means only 1500 a year total for tuition and fees, likely that is all fees and tuition itself is free. So, a savings of 12000 a year, 1,000 a month, per child in college. For those parents, you inform your child, go to UC Davis or you're on your own.....

Or, you can go into maximum debt to get a degree, get a low paying job, and pay your whole life. Or, something in between. But, my youngest says there are quite a few students that say, well, I am already borrowing money, so what's a bit more ? And then buy pizza and beer and lifestyle stuff that is unneeded. This is common.

So, best as a parent, educate your children on how to take care of themselves, how to make good decisions, counsel them to not go into debt unneeded. Sure, if they need some for the MD or DVM, but not the amounts most are taking on !

4 young people in a 2 bedroom apartment, 2 to each bedroom, all cooking at home, watch the thermostat, so maybe that is $500 ( 300 rent; 150 food; 50 electric/internet) vs 2 young people to the apartment who dont cook and get coffee, lunch out each day $1350 ( 600 rent; 600 food; 150 electric/internet) But it is worse than that, buying a used cell phone and an inexpensive plan vs the latest iphone and unlimited data. These lifestyle differences add up fast. Lets say it ends up 1000 a month expenses difference. Over 4 years for the student who did not transfer. so, 4 years for student wasteful is 10x1500x4years is 60,000 for living expenses plus 4 years tuition. Frugal student is 2 years of 10x550(phone too)x2years is 11,000 plus 2 years tuition. Uc Davis right now is $14,000 a year (rounded down) and a local community college is almost free, lets say $1000/year in fees and if low income, zero a year. SO, wasteful student is 14,000x4years is 56,000 and frugal student is 14,00x2years plus 1,000x2years total of 30,000.

Wasteful student is now total for $116,000 for the bachelors degree IF they manage to get it done in 4 years. Frugal student is $41,000. Which is still alot of money. That is about $850/month averaged over the 4 years. Some parents will be able to pay lets say $500/month and the student could work ($350/month averaged, more in summer) or work less and have a very small loan. Many parents who do not have an extra 400-500 a month would likely have low enough income that the student would get grants. But, the other student, coming in at $116,000, almost 30,000 a year is 2,500 a month which is unaffordable for middle income parents. But they are making bad choices to do this

We've got three kids.
We talked about the debt-load for years and years. Our kids have other issues (depression and anxiety seem prevalent in our family) but they don't owe tens of thousands of $$ for their schooling.
Community college is a great way to get the first two years done.

Something to check: our school district (Hershey) is a contributing school to Harrisburg Area Community College system (HACC). As residents of the district AND since our kids graduated from said district, they got a substantial discount on HACC's tuition. It was about 25%, I think. Enough to make a difference.
They don't tell you this! You have to ASK.

So if your kids attend a local community college, ask if there's discount for being in one of the area school districts!

I absolutely cannot understand why any responsible parent doesn't talk about money with their kids. The real world will not care about your 'dreams'. Creditors expect to be paid. $200,000 in debt for art school means you'll never pay it off and you'll never be an artist.

Teresa from Hershey