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Need advice on college choice, $$, etc.

squeakywheelsqueakywheel 31 replies7 threads Junior Member
Our family is having a difficult time navigating some great choices. DS has been accepted so far to Princeton and 2 very good in-state schools. He has interviewed for merit scholarships at the in-state schools, but we will not qualify for any need-based aid. He is thrilled about Princeton and would choose to attend in a heartbeat (although he hasn't visited yet, so maybe that might change when he visits).

The problem is the money. We are very frugal, both parents work hard, and we have saved a lot of $ while driving old cars, living in a very small house, etc. We have previously told both of our children that we will pay for their college education if they work hard, which they have done. However now that our first one is about to go to school, the reality of 4 years of Princeton costing $260K is hitting us. We also feel that to be fair we would need to offer our second child the same deal, so now we are talking over half a million dollars.

Yes, we could technically afford it. However, we were looking forward to retiring in the near future, and that much of a college bill would upset that plan. In short, we are now considering telling DS that we will pay for some amount that is more than in-state but less than Princeton. He was shocked when this was mentioned and now I am really feeling at a loss as to what to do. I wish we had realized earlier how this would work out, but frankly I knew how slim the chances were of his being accepted to an Ivy, so I didn't think it was going to be a problem.

Any advice would be appreciated, thank you.
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Replies to: Need advice on college choice, $$, etc.

  • PentaprismPentaprism 495 replies8 threads Member
    edited March 2016
    I'm not sure what to advise.

    What are the "2 very good in-state schools"? If they have the same caliber as those of UC Berkeley, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech,... , I wouldn't spend $160K more for a BS/BA degree from Princeton.
    edited March 2016
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids 84173 replies1035 threadsForum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Forum Champion
    You're instate for Calif, and your son applied to UCB...did he get in? Where did he get in??

    >>
    S submitted the day before the deadline, has received no request for LORs

    In-state
    GPA: 4.0 UW, 4.6 weighted (includes 15 APs)
    SAT: 2340
    5's on all AP tests
    good ECs etc
    applied to EECS
    <<<


    If he got into EECS then it would be silly to pay $60k+ for Princeton.
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  • NorthernMom61NorthernMom61 4179 replies30 threads Senior Member
    These are the types of scenarios that many regular posters with college cost expertise on this website try very hard to help people prevent. Unfortunately, I do not have advice that will ease your stress, potential conflict with, and serious disappointment for your son.

    Perhaps rewriting that list of pros and cons for each school including costs and having a very real discussion with him might help. Going to admitted student's days might help with this too.

    Either way you choose, someone gets hurt here, it's either you and your wallet, or your son's plans and dreams (not that his dreams can't come true if he doesn't attend Princeton, it is just really hard to get over such a perceived prize when you started out not thinking you needed to worry about the cost).

    Good luck.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23251 replies17 threads Senior Member
    I think it is better to bring this up now than in May, or even when he's a sophomore. Tell him you just didn't know that Princeton costs $70k per year. Just didn't know. Sit down and go over the numbers. Show him what it will cost from savings and current income. Tell him that he will not be coming home for Thanksgiving or spring break, that he will have to work summers and contribute that money. If he still wants to go, he should be required to take out the student loans. I didn't want my kids to have to take them out, but they did.

    One difference between us is that I couldn't have afford $500k for two kids, but I would have received some FA from Princeton..
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3486 replies24 threads Senior Member
    What are his other choices?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78600 replies697 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2016
    Either way you choose, someone gets hurt here, it's either you and your wallet, or your son's plans and dreams (not that his dreams can't come true if he doesn't attend Princeton, it is just really hard to get over such a perceived prize when you started out not thinking you needed to worry about the cost).

    The other thing that can get hurt is the level of trust between the OP and the kid (and the next kid).

    Although if the prospective CS major kid asked, I would tell him that Princeton at list price is not worth the price premium over UCB/EECS, UCLA/CS, UCSD/CS (assuming admission to these majors) at in-state price (and probably potential for Regents' scholarship if admitted early), if those are the in-state schools.
    edited March 2016
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  • blueskies2dayblueskies2day 1097 replies6 threads Senior Member
    Frugal spending and $250k in many areas of California still doesn't mean you can afford tuition. That aside, I wouldn't turn down the private education of Princeton for any instate public in CA - UCB or UCLA, if you can afford it, which you say you can. How about your ask your student to pay the difference between Princeton and instate schools back to you after he graduates. You are just fronting it for now then without loans for him. I suppose you have CA real estate which you may downsize or retire somewhere less expensive to consider? Either way, imo, the struggles and overcrowding at the CA publics create a totally different college experience. The budget issues have only gotten worse. A school can be ranked this or that, but that doesn't mean it is a great place to go. There will also be differences in connections and personal friends/mates he will meet at Princeton. Agree, if he visits, there is no turning back.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78600 replies697 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2016
    Frugal spending and $250k in many areas of California still doesn't mean you can afford tuition.

    $250,000 of W-2 income in California nets about $171,000 after income and payroll taxes, according to http://www.tax-rates.org/income-tax-calculator/?ref=nav_income . That certainly looks like more than enough to pay private university list price from current income if the frugal family can live on less than $100,000 per year (considering that most families in California live on much less than that in pre-tax income, a frugal family should manage that easily). Of course, if the family had two in colleges that expensive, that would be a squeeze if they tried to pay out of current income, but if they have been living frugally for many years, they probably have very large amounts of money in both college savings / investment / 529 accounts and their retirement accounts.
    How about your ask your student to pay the difference between Princeton and instate schools back to you after he graduates. You are just fronting it for now then without loans for him.

    Bad idea for both the case where the parents have the money and will not endanger their retirement by giving it, and the case where the parents really need for it to be paid back. Loans from parents are still loans.
    edited March 2016
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  • PentaprismPentaprism 495 replies8 threads Member
    edited March 2016
    @blueskies2day:
    How about your ask your student to pay the difference between Princeton and instate schools back to you after he graduates. You are just fronting it for now then without loans for him.
    Never loan money to a relative. It's very easy to lose the money, the relative, or both.

    Many posters seem to NOT read the original post. Apparently squeakywheel "could technically afford it." He/she just doesn't want to pay that much money, especially that means the second child would expect the same treatment.

    It's pointless to discuss whether the OP can or cannot do it.

    The remaining question is, "what are other options?" But we haven't heard back from the OP yet.
    edited March 2016
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    OP, do you have a 529 account with money set aside for education? How is the funding level in that account? Most full pay families don't just pay out if current earnings. They use some savings, some current earnings, the kid works summers and part time during the school year, and they may take out federal loans. Did you do any planning or saving?
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