Darn long title, eh?
There are many schools of thought (pun!) on working one’s way through college or having parents pay for it. I’m going to share my point-of-view because I think it depends very much on the particular person.
I did not earn any money that went towards my college. I also graduated free of student loans. My tuition, room and board were paid by three people/things. First, I had scholarships which covered more than 50% of overall expenses. Second, I had a grandfather who left me a college fund. Third, I had parents who made up the difference.
I also worked my butt off in classes, at 2 jobs at a time (none freshman year, one research position for 3 years and 2 other jobs 3 semesters each), and participated in student groups (including president of a student organization for 3 semesters). I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.91 GPA.
Those are all the facts…here’s how I feel about them.
Looking back a year after graduation, I feel even more grateful to my parents and grandfather because I better understand the value and the price of that education. And I think that I did better in school because I didn’t have to worry about paying the tuition either at the time or through loans.
Frankly, I can be pretty neurotic. I think that I would have been paralyzed and worried sick about making the money. I got neurotic about my grades, but that led me to spend more time studying. If I’d been trying to work full-time and going to school part-time, for example, I probably would have focused on the working to make money for the school and not on the learning. Any combination which made work as important as school would have been bad.
Because while being smart I can be dumb like that. Even as someone who blogs about personal finance every day, I’ll admit that money scares the heck out of me. I think that’s why I started this blog.
Money scared me in college too, which is why I always spent less than I made and never tried to have a credit card. The money I did have, I was able to either spend occasionally with my friends/for crafting or give away or save. So when we got married, I think I had a net worth of something like $4000. I’d also given away well over $1000. Not bad for someone who spent all but a few hundred bucks the summer before college on a trip to Europe.
And in my own way, I did pay for over half my college education by getting the scholarships in the first place and then by keeping my GPA above 3.6 for the entire 4 years. (I’d like to add that I’m jealous of a friend who got a full ride including room and board at another school and only had to keep a 2.5 GPA. Of course, she did splendidly…but still. Dang.)
I suppose I could have also gotten loans to pay for my schooling, but my parents were vehemently opposed to the idea (scholarships, scholarships, scholarships!!!). They did not want me to graduate in debt. My mother, who became a SAHM the age of 40 (when she had her first kid, me), was particularly insistent. She said that if I ended up being a SAHM and transferring all my debt to the working husband I might feel quite guilty for not actively paying it off. She was not only debt-free when she married, but had enough for a down-payment on the house.
Plus, if I’d taken out the loans, I probably would have felt the loans looming over my head all through college, even as Micah’s loom over me now. More neurosis.
Will my kids have to pay for their own college? Well, assuming I have kids, I expect that college prices will be insanely high by the time they go. Maybe they could get a discount at whatever school(s) Micah ends up working for. But I’m going to tell them what my parents told me “We need you to get scholarships, but we’ll help.” I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help, but I want to save something so that whether or not they’re neurotic like me they’ll have a chance to focus on school.