Middle-Class Parents need to get a Grip

Grenwinae says controversial posts get readership. OTOH, I don’t want to post just a bunch of Crabby Crone posts, but goodness gracious I wonder where people’s brains are!?

Because I have one in college and another heading there in two years, I’ve been reading tons of articles about colleges, costs, scholarships etc… I have come across an unbelievable amount of middle class parents who are standing, mouth agape, making sad puppy eyes, clutching their pearls, and whining, “but… but… but…!!” as if getting their darling into an Ivy League school is their Divine Right because they happened to know how to make a kid.

Getting accepted is not the problem here – my son, with his grades, scores and community leadership, could be accepted to an Ivy League school. The problem here is paying for it! For those that don’t “get it” I will share with you some hard facts you need to face up too now.

1.) Your darling child doesn’t need to go the “school of choice” if you can’t afford it. I cannot understand why parents Sue and Dave (made up names for the sake of this storyline) let precious daughter Candy submit to Harvard and than boggle at the price. College fees are easily seen at websites so don’t whine to me you “didn’t know” (as stated in one article – obviously the parents were delusional or just incredibly stupid).

Being accepted isn’t the same as paying for it. Kapish?

2.) Unless Candy is a football player, invented a Perpetual Motion Machine or dreamed up the Ice Bucket Challenge, she will not get a full ride scholarship. Full ride scholarships are a fantasy for 99.5 % of those attending college. It’s best you don’t count on them at all when planning costs.

Candy is a great kid and has a special place in your heart but that doesn’t translate to a full-ride at Carnegie Mellon.

An extremely small amount of college kids have a full ride scholarship for the entire four years. A lot of scholarships cover the first year or two and nothing after that.

3.) The expensive and selective school of choice tells Sue and Dave they can afford it. This is because they are setting you up for FINANCIAL AID – this means LOANS. This means if Candy, dumps college/fails school/runs off to screw Greg or Penny or doesn’t get employed with her Cinema Arts degree post graduation, YOU PARENTS are paying for that loan.

Financial Aid = Loans, not Scholarships. Trust the Financial Aid office as much as you would a used car salesman.

*~*~*~*~*

Here are my issues – colleges and universities are pricing themselves out of the range of the middle class. They have relied upon indulgent parents wanting the best for their Candy – and who are willing to mortgage the house and sign off on loan papers – in order for Candy to go to some dream college.

Until parents tell these colleges NO in a loud and clear voice, the middle class cash cows will continue to be milked by universities who are laughing all the way to the bank (trust me, they don’t give a rat’s ass if Candy graduates – their goal is to get their fingers into your pocketbook).

The reason this country hit the wall years ago was the unrealistic expectations of the middle class thinking they could live better than they could afford. I made the same mistake (and have a house that is a money pit) so learn from recent history and sit Candy down for a heart to heart talk about how she will be graduating from college with ZERO debt.

*~*~*~*~*

So I have a kid that is in college right now and we have paid very little for him to attend these last two years. How did we do that?

1.) He is on a full-ride, two year scholarship based upon grades and community service. If you attend high school and graduate in Tulsa County you can attend Tulsa Community College (an accredited state school) for up to 64 credit hours (the program is called Achieves, and I’ve heard of similar programs in other states).

Achieves money is supported by taxpayers. I have paid property tax for 16 years here so heck, yeah, I am 100% going to take advantage of this program.

Before your kids enter high school, look into state/county sponsored options. It might even benefit you to move to take advantage of a similar program (i.e. Tennessee pays for 4 years if you agree to be a teacher in the state). Especially, if you have more than one kid – or multiples who will be attending college at the same time.

2.) He receives a small scholarship each semester (approximately $1200) because he is a Chickasaw tribal member. While you have to be a tribal member, it is also merit based (aka grades and GPA) scholarship. Because of that scholarship, he has been able to travel to England, Japan, and South Korea on school sponsored trips.

Focus on adding up smaller scholarships – what is special about your kid and pursue organizations that provide merit-based scholarships in those areas. These can add up and ease the burden or provide “extras” like they did or our son, however, don’t expect a full-ride.

3.) He tested out (CLEP) of 9 credit hours. Figure the math: $100 to test, another $80 for a testing book to study vs. $900+ per class. Taking the CLEP pays and saves. Colleges do limit how many CLEP hours and what kind you can take. Check in advance. Oh, btw, he also got reimbursed for CLEP costs by his Native American scholarship so our cost was ZERO for 9 credit hours!

Some schools will allow advanced testing within a department or give credit for life experiences. Always make sure that the school is accredited (not accredited? your degree is worthless).

4.) He took some college classes while a High School Senior. These were 100% paid by a special, local scholarship program.

5.) Every college kid should be working part time. PERIOD. At one time I worked three jobs when I was in my senior year of college – this was ridiculous and I do not recommend it! NEVER let work supplant school.

However, working 10-15 hours a week is a good way for your college kid to gain work experience and responsibility. At this point they should be contributing to phone bill, car insurance etc… with some for their personal fun.

6.) Textbooks are expensive! We buy used from Craigslist or rent them from Amazon. Often you can buy an older edition (the edition before the newest) and the teacher will allow it (check with the teacher; check online with the book publisher and view the changes made between editions).

Online subscriptions (required by his math classes) remains expensive. Thankfully, laptops are very reasonable in price (and if you can’t afford a laptop, you can’t afford college).

7.) Not all community colleges are the same. Pick a state-accredited school (don’t fall for these online colleges or religious schools). In Oklahoma, graduating from a state accredited junior/community college with an associates degree gets a high degree of accepted coursework to a state school (i.e. OU or Oklahoma State University).

Before attending a community college have an idea of where you most likely will transfer. They often can advise you on what will transfer. Many universities are now offering special transfer assistance – OU even has dorms for transfer students and I looked into others that offered similar assistance (i.e. even transfer scholarships).

If you graduate with an Associates degree, and take a break from college, your credits are far more likely to be accepted when you go back to school to finish. If you have a kid who you feel might have trouble going the 4 year distance, a community college would be a good way to start and lock down the credit hours.

True story: friend came back to school 10+ years later and since she was 2 classes short of her degree she had to retake all her general education classes. If she had graduated with some sort of degree those classes would still be there for some transfer credit.

Newsflash – if you get a two year degree (Associates) and later a Bachelors (four year degree), all that matters to employers is the Bachelors university.

8.) Set up an educational 529 to receive a tax break. Do this by your kids middle school at the latest. If you are an adult student – put in for yourself – and ask family for this instead of holiday presents (and they get a tax break too). Some employers will reimburse or help with college – if yours does not, look for a job that does!

*~*~*~*~*

Next fall he transfers to the University of Oklahoma. At that time, the entire financial picture is going to change. One year into OU, his sister, starts Tulsa Community College on the Achieves scholarship plan. The Achieves scholarship program will allows us to have two kids in college (one on a full ride and the other using savings).

While I worry about many things – I feel pretty good that the kids will both obtain a four year degree with no debt. They will have a solid education, in a field they want, along with having some fun adventures along the way. I will not have to mortgage my house or be responsible for student debt; my kids can quit college (if they choose too – over my dead body LOL) and know they owe no money.

They will have the freedom to move and live where they want upon graduation. This is something Candy, graduating from Berkeley with $200,000 in debt won’t be able to do.

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