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Late to the party (are families really going 150 to 200k in debt for undergrad?)

JD7777JD7777 137 replies11 threads Junior Member
Parent of rising senior son. West coast, smaller suburban high school. 4.0 UW GPA, 32 ACT , several APs although not all 4s and 5s, some interesting activities but not the superhuman (1st gen trilingual refugee student who plays with adult orchestra and started pet rescue nonprofit in spare time) type. No other unique attractive attributes (sometimes called "hooks" on this forum).
This summer we have spent considerable time researching schools based on interests and finances and it has been a stunning and depressing journey. Most of my son's life we lived on 1 public school teacher salary. In the last 6-7 years my wife returned to public school teaching and I took another job in a public school at a higher salary. For kicks I ran a NPC at my own alma mater, Brown U and see that we are expected to pay 47,000 out of pocket each year. We saved almost every spare dollar as he grew up in a 529 and have roughly 40,000 saved for him, less than a year at a Brown-like school (and this is a huge stretch assuming he would be admitted).
Then we ran similar NPCs for local private colleges in Oregon and Washington for reference. In the best cases it is 35,000 to 38,000 dollars! Am I just living in fantasy land and other parents like us are taking on extreme personal debt for kids' undergrad education?
I know almost every parent thinks his/her/their kid works very hard and I am no different- loaded schedule with demanding AP coursework balanced with other activities and 2 varsity sports. He has worked SO much harder than I did in high school. Hours and hours grinding.
I have to think there are a lot of families like ours. Is the answer to simply say "You are limited to our state school and such is life?" Almost my entire extended family attended state schools in Oregon so I don't mean to suggest anything is wrong with going that route, but it feels a bit "off" that he could have not taken the path he took, seriously reduced his load, spent less time in test prep and ended up in the same school for the same price.
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Replies to: Late to the party (are families really going 150 to 200k in debt for undergrad?)

  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 696 replies1 threads Member
    No, many families are not going into huge debt for undergrad. Lots of great opportunities within state universities for honors colleges or screened or capped majors. Some lesser known private colleges will discount for high stat students, so net price is similar to in-state.
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  • HippobirdyHippobirdy 696 replies1 threads Member
    edited July 2019
    Also have you looked at opportunities via WUE?
    P.S. He may be able to double major, or start a masters early, or graduate early with state universities accepting AP credits.
    edited July 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83929 replies745 threads Senior Member
    JD7777 wrote: »
    I have to think there are a lot of families like ours. Is the answer to simply say "You are limited to our state school and such is life?" Almost my entire extended family attended state schools in Oregon so I don't mean to suggest anything is wrong with going that route, but it feels a bit "off" that he could have not taken the path he took, seriously reduced his load, spent less time in test prep and ended up in the same school for the same price.

    As a stronger high school student, he will be better prepared for college (any college including UO, OSU, etc.) than the student who slacked off more in high school and will start college less well prepared, possibly needing remedial courses and having to work harder for probably less result in college frosh level courses due to weaker academic skills from high school.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78512 replies3537 threads Senior Member
    Have you looked at your public on state options?
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  • JD7777JD7777 137 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Thanks all. Yes we have looked at our in-state public schools and there are some nice options there indeed. Here is the rub I need to work through (am attempting to work through with the help of posters like you)... regardless of how amazing, hardworking, innovative, compassionate, driven a young person with parents like us might be, he/she is generally staring at 2 options- an in-state (subsidized) option or a debt load well beyond 6 figures. I'm not naive enough to think that higher ed is a meritocracy or "fair" in most peoples sense but a model this limiting is rather disappointing (and on a personal level I think my own child would benefit from a small school where he might be a bit more known and less of an ID number.



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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83929 replies745 threads Senior Member
    JD7777 wrote: »
    regardless of how amazing, hardworking, innovative, compassionate, driven a young person with parents like us might be, he/she is generally staring at 2 options- an in-state (subsidized) option or a debt load well beyond 6 figures. I'm not naive enough to think that higher ed is a meritocracy or "fair" in most peoples sense but a model this limiting is rather disappointing

    For most students attending college immediately after high school, parental finances are the most important factor determining the choice of college.

    Students with top-end academic credentials may have some additional options based on large-enough merit scholarships that bring net prices down to the parental budget limit.
    JD7777 wrote: »
    (and on a personal level I think my own child would benefit from a small school where he might be a bit more known and less of an ID number.

    Southern Oregon University markets itself as a public LAC, although it also has a regional focus.

    However, a top-end student may find more suitable opportunities at a larger college, where the number of similar top-end students there may be enough to offer such things as honors courses, honors programs, etc..
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  • elodyCOHelodyCOH 404 replies24 threads Member
    I had to put the expensive schools out of our radar, else make ourselves crazy. It just isn't possible for for everyone. The good news is that there are other wonderful schools that your son CAN to with the help of the amazing savings you have for him. University of Alabama, University of Nebraska, Ole Miss, and many more offer excellent programs and merit offers to good students. It doesn't have to be Brown to be a great education.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78512 replies3537 threads Senior Member
    Even at smaller colleges, some required lower division courses are larger. Once in his major, you kid will have classes that are not as huge.

    Even with huge classes, students can meet with professors during office hours, attend study groups, or join interest related clubs where the student can meet folks.

    I honestly think my kid who went to the 35,000 student university knew his professors better than my kid who attended the 5000 student school.
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  • JD7777JD7777 137 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Honestly I believe that the money my parents and I paid for my Ivy League diploma wasn't worth it. Yes, I was surrounded by some really bright students but also many not so bright. Unless I wanted to go to med school or into finance, the investment we made didn't pencil out. In public education, an undergrad degree from Brown didn't open doors and I've seen more opportunities come to guys from Oregon State through fraternity connections than anything I received. Most importantly, I never thought a school like Brown was a good fit for my own son. The degree of freedom provided and self-sufficiency required only fits a unique kid and that's not mine right now. To make a long story short, we could care less about the name associated with the undergrad degree. It just isn't that important in most industries. That said, I would like to believe he could go to places that match his strengths, interests and passions and not have cost rule out all but in state options.


    Joblue wrote: »
    With all due respect, I think that it's possible that because you attended a school like Brown you may have a very skewed view of your son's affordable options for college. Just based on what I've observed on CC, many parents who either attended "elite" schools or have spent their lives in the northeast corridor really seem to believe that a truly excellent education is only available to students who attend maybe 25 private universities and perhaps that's why the notion of state schools or less well known privates who may offer him merit scholarships seems somehow lesser or as you say "off".

    Your son sounds like a truly great, intelligent, hard-working kid but based on his stats seems more like what has been called an "average excellent" student who may not have been admitted to the kinds of schools you have been dreaming of, even if you had the available funds to pay for them.

    Please trust that your son's hard work and particularly his work ethic will yield wonderful results in many colleges and universities which will not require you or him to take on significant debt. It's time to begin to seriously investigate what colleges will be able to recognize his considerable strengths, his interests in terms of potential majors, and his personal requirements for where he'd like to spend his 4 years as an undergraduate, and forget the status-school brainwashing which lead so many students and their parents into ruinous debt. I seriously commend you and your wife for managing to save $40k for your son's education. The fact that you've achieved that puts your kid miles ahead of many of his peers and is a tremendous gift to him.

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  • cshell2cshell2 1117 replies11 threads Senior Member
    I think MOST kids are limited to in-state schools. It's not the worst thing in the world. I've always found it kind of funny anyhow how kids in a couple of the adjacent states to us want to come here and pay way more while the kids in our state want to go there and pay more.
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