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Different schools of thought about paying for college

Twoin18Twoin18 Registered User Posts: 871 Member
Doing some thinking about recent threads about whether high EFC families can (should?) pay for top schools, I see a couple of dominant schools of thought on CC:

1) Go to the best (usually highest ranked) college you can afford because both the long term advantages and experience during college are "invaluable".

2) Don't take on debt to go to college (or at least no more debt than the federal limits), so if you can't afford to pay what the NPC says out of current income, don't apply there, apply instead to schools that offer enough merit to make them affordable.

(Accompanying these two sentiments is sometimes what I perceive to be an undercurrent of "if you had changed your lifestyle and prioritized saving for education then you would have enough money to afford your EFC for a top college" which I find distasteful but is not really relevant here).

So I often see threads where a parent (or sometimes a student) is realizing they can't afford their EFC and needs help redirecting their kid's focus towards more "affordable" schools.

But what I rarely (never?) see is a parent saying "yes I could afford a top school but I don't think it's worth paying $70K for (say) Georgetown when Berkeley is $30K or Alabama is free". In fact any comments along those lines are usually the exact opposite, e.g. "I turned down a full ride at X to be full pay at Stanford" (this is not to single out any individual, I could pick multiple other similar examples). There are a few commenters who note that (say) for engineering, salaries don't differ much between higher ranked college Y and lower ranked college Z, but did they pick Z because of that or because they couldn't afford Y?

Why is there no rational debate about the ROI associated paying more to go to a particular college? The usual pushback is that supposedly college is an "experience" so is "invaluable" or "immeasurable". It's apparently "ridiculous" to compare it to buying a more expensive car (despite the fact that this is often a trade off people make by driving an older car to save money for college). But plenty of other experiences can be weighed against cost. For example do I want to go on vacation to the Taj Mahal or to the Grand Canyon next year? And almost no one appears to think much about what your kid could do with $100K or $200K extra if it hadn't been spent on college.

So is there anyone out there who'd like to volunteer that they spent less on college and their kid didn't go to as highly ranked school as they could, not because they couldn't afford it, but because they just didn't see the value for money? If not then I think that would tend to suggest there's very little stopping top colleges from continuing to push up their sticker prices almost indefinitely.
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Replies to: Different schools of thought about paying for college

  • SJ2727SJ2727 Registered User Posts: 322 Member
    edited November 25
    “But what I rarely (never?) see is a parent saying "yes I could afford a top school but I don't think it's worth paying $70K for (say) Georgetown when Berkeley is $30K or Alabama is free"”
    Maybe not on CC, but this kind of comment is quite frequent IRL where we live, not very far from Cal. In fact I have had people say to me, on finding out D is not really applying to any in-state colleges, “what’s the point of paying high CA taxes if you’re not going to take advantage of the colleges here”! (for various reasons, D is likely to end up at an east coast private college). A lot of our (high performing public high school) end up in-state, and cost-benefit is a big part of that. Admittedly, that’s an easier calculation to make with some of the UCs and state flagships vs others.
  • SJ2727SJ2727 Registered User Posts: 322 Member
    edited November 25
    By the way on the car analogy, driving an older car to save money for college does not contradict the argument that it’s silly to compare it to car costs, it rather reinforces that argument - spending less on a depreciating thing to be able to invest more in your kid’s future.

    No two people are going to always agree where the cost-benefit trade off is, just as people differ on something like whether the value of a particular property (house/location/school district/whatever) vs another is “worth it”, or yes whether it’s worth the extra to pay for a luxury car vs a Honda. We all bring our own subjective opinions, shaped by our own life experiences, in along with what we can actually afford.
  • retiredfarmerretiredfarmer Registered User Posts: 647 Member
    edited November 25
    @SJ2727
    "By the way on the car analogy, driving an older car to save money for college does not contradict the argument that it’s silly to compare it to car costs, it rather reinforces that argument - spending less on a depreciating thing to be able to invest more in your kid’s future."

    Could not agree more!! Formerly worked in education and often noticed this common value judgement. Finally left education, in large part because of the pay differential between education and income my education could earn in other applications. It is a value judgement. Twenty years after leaving education I realized my former job was the most rewarding employment I ever had!! However, when I left that employment my salary doubled in the first year! Great, I had new cars!?

    The cost of STEM education in particular is very high because of competing salaries in the corporate world and the ever changing demands for laboratory equipment. This money is not going into expensive cars and fancy vacations. Our culture seems to value the transient pleasures of a trip to Disneyland above that of a secure and rewarding future.
  • rickle1rickle1 Registered User Posts: 1,268 Senior Member
    Glad this thread exists. Have seen many one sided threads (on both sides of the discussion) that always leave me thinking, "why would anyone care what I choose to do re paying for kids college and I would never tell someone they shouldn't, it's a waste, blah, blah blah"

    Everyone's situation is unique. What's important to me may be irrelevant to you and vice versa. We all just do what we feel is best for our kids.
  • emptynesteryetemptynesteryet Registered User Posts: 145 Junior Member
    edited November 25
    Depends on the major in my opinion. I think certain majors the "fancy" degree can be worth it and in other scenarios I believe it is 100% not worth it (using ROI flawed methodology).

    My daughter 32ACT 3.91 UW could have gone to many "higher ranked schools" the school she picked is barely in the top 500.

    We were willing to go up to 50k/yr and she chose a school that will cost about 13k/yr with room and board after scholarships.

    For her plan of healthcare it makes perfect sense her undergrad is not meaningless (clout is meaningless), but all about GPA, GRE, Volunteering, and direct patient hours. If her plan was engineering, math, business I would have swayed her against her choice.
  • bgbg4usbgbg4us Registered User Posts: 984 Member
    OP, when you have time, here's yet another thread to look at . . . 51+K views on it! from 2 years ago.
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1956080-to-parents-of-full-pay-private-college-students-p1.html
  • TdoesCollegeTdoesCollege Registered User Posts: 62 Junior Member
    “So is there anyone out there who'd like to volunteer that they spent less on college and their kid didn't go to as highly ranked school as they could, not because they couldn't afford it, but because they just didn't see the value for money?”

    Count us in this category. D applied to, was accepted to, received a small merit scholarship to a smaller mostly women’s college. Based on her desired path, teaching, and unwillingness to put more effort into testing that could have increased the merit dollars, we did a cost analysis and said no. We had some money set aside for college expenses, but this school was far above and beyond that. And the cost was unreasonable given the anticipated future income. We talked about what the (her) payments would have been after she graduated, what her income would like be, and talked about all her other life things that would have to wait. Think vacations, 1st car, meals out, etc. She ended up at an in state uni, found her place, graduated “on time” and debt free, loves where she’s living now (same area as college), and will hopefully pass that one last certification test.

    Given her desired path, I would not have agreed to full cost regardless of who was paying or the loans.
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