Don't understand what my mom is thinking

I recently graduated from an in-state public university and will start a fully-funded PhD at Duke in the Fall. Five years ago, as a high school senior, I thought long and hard about my college search and selection. I knew that my stats gave me a good shot at some top private universities, especially if I picked one and applied early decision. But I also ran some financial aid calculations and concluded that even though I would likely receive good need-based aid, going to a public university was much cheaper. I wasn't willing to take on tens of thousands of student loans, and I didn't want my parents to deplete their savings unnecessarily when we already had a good and inexpensive in-state option, so I chose the in-state public.</p>

My mom is seriously thinking of spending the money that I saved my parents by not attending a private university on one of my cousins (her niece) from overseas who wants to come to the United States to pursue a Master's degree.</p>

<p>My cousin has been accepted at a nearby university, but she is far from fully-funded; my family would have to pay in-state tuition and fees, which are about $8,000 a year. However, the in-state tuition rate is actually a scholarship and requires maintaining a 3.5 GPA every semester. My cousin's cumulative GPA at her alma mater was only 3.3/4.0, so if she can't meet the requirement, the tuition and fees jump to $25,000 a year, which is the out-of-state rate.</p>

<p>Five years ago, when I had a talk with my parents, my dad preferred that I attend an in-state public university but was willing to pay for a "good" private liberal arts college or research university. My mom, on the other hand, was far less reluctant to pay for a private LAC or research U. Thus, I'm baffled as to why my mom was so unwilling to spend money on me, her son, and yet is so eager to pay for my cousin's Master's degree, which will actually cost much more than my bachelor's degree did. I note that my cousin's parents are poor, and so her family won't be contributing a cent to her Master's. The tuition and fees are all on my parents' backs.</p>

<p>How should I discuss this with my mom to let her know that I don't agree with her plan to finance her niece's studies out-of-pocket?</p>

<p>Whose money is it? If you're getting a PhD you must realize that it's not your business how your parents choose to spend their money.</p>

<p>They paid for your undergraduate education in full. Be thankful.<br>
You are now going to attend a fully funded PhD program. Be thankful. </p>

<p>The money saved because you attended a state school over an expensive private school is their money--not yours.
Your parents can spend their money as they wish. </p>

<p>The only thing that I would suggest is for your parents to set up a contract with your niece stating the conditions of their help. In other words, they could say that they will contribute
$X amount towards her education. If she her costs goes up because she failed to meet the GPA minimum, then they will continue to contribute $X amount and she must take out loans for the rest. </p>

<p>You can suggest that they set up a contract with your niece. Give the suggestion and then let it go. In the end, they can do as they please. Be thankful for what they've given you. Be proud that they want to help give your cousin this educational opportunity.</p>



<p>Are both of you saying that I made a mistake five years ago, namely that I was wrong to factor the potential financial burden on my parents in my college decision?</p>

<p>I agree that it's their money to do with what they want. It sounds like you received a good education and it is nice and generous of them to want to help out a family member.</p>

<p>It doesn't sound like they told you you couldn't go someplace because of the money; they didn't say they were going to cut you a big fat check for the difference either.</p>

<p>My S will also be attending a state U because we can't pay over twice as much for a similar education at an expensive private school. The money we will not be spending on a private will help the family as a whole.</p>

<p>8K doesn't sound like a lot if their finances would support that; They should be upfront about their willingness to bump that up if their niece loses the scholarship.</p>

<p>I can see the points that everyone is making.</p>

<p>Yes, it's the parents money to spend how they want. But, it's human nature not be somewhat hurt by this scenario. Imagine if your parents insisted on going cheaply for your wedding, but then turned around and gave a chunk of money so a relative could have a lavish wedding. It's human nature to feel bad when these things happen.</p>

<p>Accoutrement...when you chose your cheaper in-state school, was there any suggestion that they would help you with grad school because of what they had saved them? If so, then I can totally understand your situation. We told our son we would help him with med school since he went cheaply for undergrad. If later on we decided not to help him with med school, but instead help someone else with their grad school plans, that would be wrong on our part for not keeping our end of the bargain. </p>

<p>If I were you, I would have a polite sit-down with my parents and tell them that you're hurt by this decision. They may share something with you that will make it more understandable. Be respectful. It is their money.</p>

<p>Alright, I guess I do see it from my mom's perspective now. I admit my emotions are probably clouding my judgment. Thanks to all for the helpful posts and advice.</p>



<p>Accoutrement...when you chose your cheaper in-state school, was there any suggestion that they would help you with grad school because of what they had saved them? If so, then I can totally understand your situation. We told our son we would help him with med school since he went cheaply for undergrad. If later on we decided not to help him with med school, but instead help someone else with their grad school plans, that would be wrong on our part for not keeping our end of the bargain.


<p>We had a similar arrangement at the time because I too had an interest in going to med school. My interests quickly changed, however, and I am grateful and thankful to have a fully-funded PhD offer from Duke.</p>

<p>Don't forget their finances and plans have changed in the time you went through undergrad school. Maybe they feel more financial secure now or maybe they feel like paying it forward to a relative.</p>

<p>I think it's OK to discuss this . . . very, very carefully. You feel hurt, that's really the important thing from your point of view. You probably ought to give your mother the chance to explain herself to you, otherwise you are just going to stay hurt and angry with her, and she won't even necessarily know it, or know why.</p>

<p>She may feel, by the way, that you had good options, and her niece doesn't. There may be ties of family obligation -- maybe her sister stayed behind to take care of their parents when your mother emigrated, or something like that, so that the niece has a significant emotional claim on your mother. Or maybe your mother really hasn't thought things through, and doesn't understand that the cost may be a lot more than $8,000.</p>

<p>Also, I think it's fair for you to ask whether you are going to wind up paying this money because you will have to support your parents when they are older. If that's the case, then it's not so simple to say that it's their money.</p>

<p>But I would be ultra-respectful about this. Assume that your mother has a good reason, and give her a chance to assuage your hurt and get you to buy in to this family project. And if that process makes her think harder about what she is doing . . . well, that would be fine with you, too.</p>

<p>^ Yes, I'm sorry if I came across as harsh in my earlier post, you are entitled to your feelings. Talking it out in a respectful way may help you feel better about the situation.</p>

<p>My parents often helped friends in need, but not to the tune of a college education. And your parents may have plans to help you down the line if you need it.</p>

<p>Totally understand how you feel, Accoutrement. You made a thoughtful, sensitive decision, respectful of your parents feelings and finances. Their decision is generous and kind, but inadvertently insensitive to you. When you share how you feel, they'll probably reassure you that they will be able to help you with future expenses if you need them, that your family is fortunate to be in a position to help your cousin, etc etc etc. Its like the parent who gives, or wills more $ to one sibling because they "need" it more, perhaps because of that child's poor planning or poor money management. The responsible, financially careful sibs feel cheated. Each is equally understandible. Its about how it makes you feel, and that is a good thing to address so that you dont carry around hurt feelings.</p>

<p>I don't mean to hijack your thread, but it makes me thing of a reverse situation I am dealing with. My s's birthdays are about a month apart. Younger 's bday was a few weeks ago- and we cannot for the life of us come up with a gift. We brought a huge cake and were planning to fund his bday celebration that was supposed to happen the night before he came home from school, but they changed their plans and someone else had a party. We've asked him several times, and all he wants is some dangerous sporting event I really dont want to pay for. Other ideas I've suggested he's not interested in (I pad being one). So far we are still coming up empty-- and will probably just give him some cash.</p>

<p>Older s, who lives elsewhere, happened to leave his relatively new car here when he went out of town for several weeks. For his bday, which is upcoming, we surprised him by fixing the body damage on his car. It was not an inexpensive gift, but it was perfect. So, we don't want younger s to feel shortchanged. My point in this story-- even though we are trying extremely hard to be equitable, it isnt always doable, or one may still feel they are getting the short end of the stick. In our case, we'll probably buy him some stock (boring, I know). I'm just not willing to pay for him to go bungee jumping or skydiving, thank you very much :)</p>

<p>Good luck!</p>



<p>No, I don't think you made a mistake at all. I think you correctly judged that you could save money for your parents and still succeed in your plans by wisely choosing the more moderately-priced state school. And that this good move on your part allowed your parents more financial flexibility on how they spend their money. </p>

<p>They are using some of this flexibility to help finance the education of your cousin. So now, thanks to your wise choices, two members of your family will be able to get good educations in the US instead of just one. It's a win for you and and win for your family.</p>

<p>A woman I know asked me if my second son is resentful that I "only" paid for his state school education when I paid for a private college for the first one and am paying for a private college for the third one. It never occurred to me that it was an issue. I have 5 kids, and I don't sit there and calculate how much each one should get in my lifetime. Hopefully, they don't either. One of mine cost a fortune in medical bills. The youngest has been in private schools all of his life whereas the older ones have not. Some are went to Catholic high schools which are way cheaper than the prep schools others attended. The oldest one got a car. Some of them had a lot of expensive music, performing arts lessons. Others had expensive sports training. We lived in a much more modest home with the older ones. I can go on and on.</p>

<p>Also, if we decided to help out one of our other relatives, I would hope my kids would feel good about it. We have both mothers living with us now, in their 80's and it is taking a lot of time and patience. Should they be resentful?</p>

<p>I remember a few years back, neighbors of ours were ever so upset that the husband's widowed mother was remarrying. The problem was inheritance issues. I guess they were counting on all of the older woman's money which they are now not going to get. That has been an issue forever with remarriages. </p>

<p>Counting on other people's money is not a good thing at all. When you chose to go to the less expensive college, it did not mean that your parents were necessarily setting aside the difference. You saved them them the money as a gift of sorts. If they spent it or just didn't have to borrow it or want to spend it now should not be your concern. It's a whole different story if they had promised you the differential in cost at graduation. Otherwise, you saved them money as a family member often does for another family member.</p>

<p>Thanks for the replies. All of you offered perspectives that I had not previously considered. When I view it from other angles, I don't feel as hurt as I did before.</p>

<p>It's also possible that by helping your cousin, he/her and his/her family will be greatly aided. In many places around the world a Masters in certain fields is a golden ticket into an upper middle class lifestyle.</p>

<p>It's possible that this could've helped them much more than it would've helped you.</p>

<p>However, you do have the right to feel hurt and you have the right to have a "say" in how they spend their money. (Although ultimatley what they do is up to them.)</p>

<p>Hey Accoutrement,</p>

<p>I know how you feel! I was in a similar situation a few years ago when I was deciding on colleges (I'll be a senior next year). I had the stats--and the acceptance letters--to a few pricey "schools of my dreams" type places. I also went to a private high school, plan to go to medical school (still intending! Took the MCAT last week, working on my apps this month), and have 3 younger siblings (2 in high school, 1 in elementary at the time). </p>

<p>So I ended up going the cheap, in state, public route. I believe a year of tuition for me is just shy of $7,500 thanks to scholarships (probably closer to $10,000/yr for senior year since 1 scholarship was just for junior year)--which was cheaper than my high school, if you can believe it. </p>

<p>Now my younger sister comes along, who reminds me a lot of how you described your cousin: good kid, not that bright. She goes to the same state school I do but with zero scholarships, so a year for her costs more than double a year for me. She also spends way more money than I do and gets tons of parking fines, overdue stuff, etc etc. Overall, her financial burden blows mine out of the water. </p>

<p>What I'm trying to get across is that I see why you might resent your cousin for taking advantage of your parents' generosity, and/or your parents' willingness to fund your cousin as enthusiastically as they funded you, when you were so much more careful with their finances. Perhaps you don't resent your cousin, but I know at times I sure do resent my sister. It may strike a little stronger with me, though, because my sister's additional expenses are coming out of the funds that were supposed to be used for my medical school.</p>

<p>But in the end, I have to agree with coureur, and that's how I've tried to view this situation lately. Because of the smart decisions I made, I can graduate with little/no debt, and so can my sister. While it definitely doesn't feel fair, at least it's pretty nice to know that I'm inadvertently helping someone else out. </p>

<p>I feel your pain. It totally sucks. But I guess it just comes with the territory of being the smart kid :) And I feel totally justified mentioning that, considering you're headed to DUKE on a fully funded PhD. No small feat! Congratulations.</p>

A woman I know asked me if my second son is resentful that I "only" paid for his state school education when I paid for a private college for the first one and am paying for a private college for the third one. It never occurred to me that it was an issue. . . . Hopefully, they don't either.


<p>It didn't work that way in my family. My first sister and I both went to private colleges. She took 5 years to graduate; I went to law school with lots of parental help. Our youngest sister went to an OOS public university and graduated on time. I would say that she "mentioned" the cost differential between her education and ours at least once a year, and probably a lot more often with our parents. She only stopped when, in her mid-30s, our parents paid for a post-bac pre-med program and then helped her substantially with medical school.</p>

<p>It will be healthier for you to just let it go and to be proud of your mom for her generous offer to your cousin.</p>

<p>Although I respect your feelings, I don't think your parents cheated you.</p>

<p>The availability of the money to help your cousin is a direct result of a decision you made -- to pursue a Ph.D. rather than going to medical school. You chose your state university to help your family save for an expenditure (medical school tuition) that they now don't have to make. So your change in career plans freed up some money that now can be used for something else.</p>

<p>*A woman I know asked me if my second son is resentful that I "only" paid for his state school education when I paid for a private college for the first one and am paying for a private college for the third one. It never occurred to me that it was an issue. . . . Hopefully, they don't either.</p>

<p>It didn't work that way in my family.*</p>

<p>It doesn't work that way in many families. </p>

<p>I can't tell you how many friends and relatives have complained to me over the years about instances where their parents didn't spend similarly on each child. One sister may have been given the lavish wedding, while the other one wasn't. One may have gotten the expensive education, and then the family decided they couldn't do that for the next one. One child got braces on their teeth while the other one didn't. One sibling was given a new car for the 16th birthday, the other one wasn't. The stories can go on and on.</p>

<p>Obviously, no family can spend identically on each child, but parents do need to be careful not to appear to be "playing favorites" or being extra generous with one over another.</p>