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How does the middle class pay for college

MysonsdadMysonsdad Posts: 245Registered User Junior Member
My wife and I make about $130,000 a year. We live in California where the cost of living is sky high. $130,000 does not go very far in California. How does someone in the middle class pay for their kids to go to a top rate college? If you are poor it is free and if you are rich, you can afford it. Why is it that the middle class has to put themselves into a huge amount of debt to go to college but poor people are rewarded for being poor by being offered a free education? Please no one tell me with this income we can afford to send our kid anywhere because that is simply not true. Did anyone on here go to a "top notch" school and NOT take out a lot of loans? Is there a way around this?
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Replies to: How does the middle class pay for college

  • thumper1thumper1 Posts: 36,389Registered User Senior Member
    Personally, I think that the UC campuses are top notch schools....at a more reasonable cost.

    Yes...there are kids who attend college without loans. Your kiddo can look for schools where he/she might qualify for merit aid based on their academic stats for admission. Merit aid helps "soften the blow" for many student who do not qualify for need based aid.
  • alamemomalamemom Posts: 6,384Registered User Senior Member
    poor people are rewarded for being poor by being offered a free education?
    The few schools that offer anything close to a "free" education to lower-income students are the most competetive in the nation. Those "lucky" poor students must have academic credentials and accomplishments far beyond the average, and they must have achieved at that level in very challenging circumstances. The vast majority of lower-income students - those with simply average academics - often have no options at all.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,504Super Moderator Senior Member
    We use my entire take home pay for college. We live on my H's pay. It's a choice we have made - we do not have what our friends have - including debt! :)

    Our 2nd child will be in school this fall. It will be much harder for us to afford things when he is in school. We may have to borrow. Again, it will be a choice. Both of our kids DO have options we could afford. We CHOOSE to send them to schools that cost us more. We accept the consequences of our choices.

    Everyone is different. The key is to do what works for you & understand that you have made the choice that works for you. Our son is interested in a school we may not be able to afford. We have been upfront & honest about it with him. If he ends up disappointed, he will survive. He has an option that we know we can swing, and if he winds up there, he will be fine.
  • owliceowlice Posts: 3,225Registered User Senior Member
    How does someone in the middle class pay for their kids to go to a top rate college?

    By broadening one's view of what a "top rate college" is, rather than depending on, for example, one magazine's stupid list.

    The "top rate college" for your son will likely be different than the "top rate college" for my son. Each family needs to do its OWN college ranking, based on criteria which make sense for that family and that family's student(s).

    Factors important to my family: languages taught at the school, whether there is a core curriculum, class size and type of classes, availability of professors, strength of certain departments, location, affordability including availability of aid (especially merit), size of college, experience of college with autistic spectrum kids, and 4-year graduation rate.

    YMMV.
  • vballmomvballmom Posts: 3,132Super Moderator Senior Member
    I live in California as well and know that while one can live like a king on $130,000 in most of the country, that's not the case in California. So I sympathize.

    However, the answer to your question is that college is paid for by a combination of current income, savings, and sometimes loans. Some people start college funds for their children when they are very young, and through the magic of compounding, inflation and appreciation, have a significant chunk of money to spend on their children's college education.

    We're also fortunate that there are many top-notch colleges in California. The UCs, the top CSUs, and many of the private colleges here rival those anywhere in the country. Some of the best privates will give merit aid to good students that will bring their cost down close to, if not even below, the cost of a public college. I know this because I've been guiding my sons through the college search process for the past 2 years. There's one college in Southern California that offers a tuition scholarship of around $25,000/year to bring the cost down to that of UCSB for anyone who was admitted to UCSB but choses that college instead. There are other excellent colleges that offer full tuition merit aid. So just because you are not wealthy (for California) doesn't mean that high-quality colleges can't be affordable.

    Good luck in your kids' college search, and stick around here a while, you'll gain lots of useful information :)
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Posts: 4,327Registered User Senior Member
    Mysonsdad, please disabuse yourself of the notion that poor kids go to college for free. A few, an infinitesimally small number that have very high grades and test scores (and only a very few of them!) can get accepted to the Harvard, Yale or similarly well-endowed schools that are nearly impossible to get into. Those students will be able to attend those colleges without borrowing, but they are expected to work summers and during the term. But we are talking about a minute number of kids.

    Most poor kids are lucky if they can get a full Pell and go to community college while working a job and living at home. The vast majority don't go to college at all.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,584Registered User Senior Member
    How does the middle class pay for college


    With its checkbook between its teeth. ;)



    But, seriously....

    Many pay for college by saving a little bit each year - starting when the kids are born.

    Some insist that their kids go to local publics and commute (saving on room and board)

    Some have their kids look for merit scholarships at OOS publics or various privates (if stats are very good.)

    Some have their kids go locally for 2 years (either at local state or local CC) and then transfer to a favorite 4 year.

    Some have grandparents who "help out".

    Some have their kids pay for some of the costs.

    Some take out student loans or second mortgages.

    Some parents get a second job to pay or use a spouse's income to pay.



    Believe me...the poor rarely get to go to school "for free". The few poor with super stats may get to go to the elites for free, but the poor with "normal stats" are in a much worse situation - even if they can get their UC tuition for free.



    Mysonsdad....Do you have a junior or a senior?
    What schools is he considering?
    What are his stats (GPA and SAT/ACT including SAT breakdown)?
    How much can you afford to pay each year towards school costs?
    What is your EFC (I imagine it's at least $35k)



    .
  • alamemomalamemom Posts: 6,384Registered User Senior Member
    ^ Good info, but I have a note about:
    but the poor with "normal stats" are in a much worse situation - even if they can get their UC tuition for free.
    Remember that UC eligibility is such that only about 12.5% of graduating seniors in California are even eligible to attend a UC. The tuition waiver for the lowest-income California students does no good for a low-income student who has managed - despite their poverty - to be in the top 13% - 20% of graduating seniors in the state, for example.

    So those with "normal stats" that fall below the top 12.5% are in an even worse situation.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,584Registered User Senior Member
    ^^^

    Very true. Having a 0 EFC doesn't give you much if you can't or don't want to commute to school.

    All you'll typically get in "free money" is Pell and perhaps some other small fed aid or state aid, which will only pay for some/all in-state tuition and not much else. And, if you live in a state with high in-state tuition, then ugh!!

    Also, the poor don't usually have family members who can qualify for the loans that are often needed to pay the rest of the COA.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Posts: 22,781Registered User Senior Member
    Please don't fool yourself into thinking the poor go to school for free. Sister's mom makes 20k a year. My sister doesn't even get full Pell. She works 40+ hours a week to cover her tuition and fees at a state school (on top of cell phone, car costs, living costs. etc). She is in her fifth year because she can only take (at most) 12 credits a semester. Please get off the notion that poor kids go to school for free.
  • 'rentof2'rentof2 Posts: 4,327Registered User Senior Member
    In terms of who-has-it-harder with regards to sending kids to college it's 1)the poor, 2)the middle class and 3)the wealthy.

    There are many threads on CC on the theme of woe-to-the-poor-families-making-over-$100K/yr. I do not doubt there is significant hardship involved and sometimes very difficult re-prioritizing of family budgets, but it's important to understand that it isn't some kind of conspiracy against the middle class. More money is virtually always better than less money.

    As to the cost-of-living in certain areas, there is a factor of higher salaries in those areas to consider too. I live in a relatively low-cost-of-living area, but wages and salaries here are much lower than in CA, NY, NJ, etc.
  • alamemomalamemom Posts: 6,384Registered User Senior Member
    A bit of a reality check for the OP:
    My wife and I make about $130,000 a year. We live in California where the cost of living is sky high. $130,000 does not go very far in California.
    According to the UC Census Bureau, the median household income in California for 2007 was $59,928 California QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,584Registered User Senior Member
    ^^^

    True...but if the OP lives in a single-family home in the suburb, then $130k is about what it takes to live there, unless you're like my parents who bought their OC home in 1966. :)
  • alamemomalamemom Posts: 6,384Registered User Senior Member
    ^ We live in California in a single-family home in a suburb, and somehow we manage on approximately the median California household income. I guess we have made some different lifestyle choices than the OP. The OP is making more than twice the median California household income.
  • vballmomvballmom Posts: 3,132Super Moderator Senior Member
    Median incomes in California vary wildly by county and city. In my county the median income in 2007 was $84,265 and in my town the median income in 1999 (latest reported number on that link) was $126,740. Anyone who bought a house in my town in the past 5 years is paying $8000-$12,000/month on their mortgage + taxes, so that high income doesn't get you very far. Is this a personal choice? Of course! The school district in my town is a huge draw and many people gladly pay a premium to be within its boundaries.

    I think there's an affordability index published that takes into account both salaries and costs of living in various cities in the country. High salaries in high cost-of-living cities are clearly not as enviable as high salaries in low cost-of-living cities. A normalized index is probably a more relevant measure of "middle class" than a simple salary figure.
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