I remember the day I saw a friend’s Facebook post talking about how excited they were for saving X amount for their little nuggets for college. I just thought, “wow”. While I’m certainly happy for them (and frankly impressed by their saving skills) it’s not something you’ll see my husband and I doing – and here’s why:
We just don’t have disposable income right now
At 28 years of age, I’m finally starting to feel like I’m getting my shit together. Kind of. I have a steady job, we pay our bills on time, our kids are well taken care of, and I can even cook salmon. How fancy am I? Life is pretty sweet. Amid all this wonderful-ness, it’s still not all rainbows and butterflies. The house needs work and we’d really like to start taking regularly scheduled family vacations, but there’s no money in the budget for those kinds of things. That’s ok, because we’ll get there at some point. For now though, there’s no extra cash for, well, the extras – and that’s exactly what my kids’ college is at this point. I will always sacrifice for my nuggets; they do really come first. However, we aren’t going to forego all the cool things about childhood so I can pay for their higher education.
It’s very, very likely that I’ll still be paying off my own school loans by the time my kids graduate high school. That thought is scary, but it’s our reality. Between the husband and I, our combined school loan payments are almost as much as our mortgage. Where am I supposed to get the extra cash to store away for these kids? It’s way too early in the game to pick a favorite and fund college for that one.
What if they aren’t ready?
My parents were awesome, but paying for my education wasn’t in the cards – which was probably smart on my folks’ part because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do when I grew up so I went to college twice. I’m not sure it’s realistic for kids aged 16 through 18-ish to know what they want to do with their lives, because exactly that – they’re kids. Can we really blame them for bouncing around a bit and trying to figure it all out? No, of course not, but mom and dad shouldn’t be putting off that trip to Italy they’ve always dreamed about so junior can figure it out in between mandatory remedial English and the thirsty Thursday gathering at the campus’ most exciting frat house.
College is most definitely a time to live and learn about yourself, but you’ve got to have your head on somewhat straight while you’re there as well. I know I would’ve been much less inclined to be smart about how I spent my time if I wasn’t footing the bill.
Oh ya, and personal responsibility too
Speaking about being smart, let’s talk about personal responsibility for a minute. I’m not saying that my kids need to pay for their college education because I had to, but I do want them to work for it. At some point, we’ve got to start letting our kids reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of their own choices. There are tons of scholarships and grants out there for students who have worked hard enough to get them. If they haven’t worked for those scholarships, maybe a school that’s $30K a year isn’t the best choice for them. Maybe if a particular university is that important to them, they need to get a job so they can pay the tuition that comes along with it.
College isn’t for everyone
For my generation, I’m pretty sure college was seen as the Holy Grail. For me personally, it just seemed like the logical next step if nothing else. Finish high school, go to college, get a job – am I right? Maybe, but then again maybe not. College simply isn’t for everyone, and a smart, driven person can do really well for himself or herself without a degree. It’s not the logical next step, and there’s no guarantee that you can get a good job and pay your way after your graduate.
I don’t want my kids to think that college is their only option or that it’s something that they have to do. While college is super important for some, others thrive on their own skills, ideas, and ambition. Entrepreneurship, yo. Some things simply can’t be taught in a classroom. If my kids want to be janitors instead of scientists, that’s cool too. A college education is not necessary to make them successful in their own right.
For me, there’s too many reasons not to start a college fund. What do you think?