Doughnut Hole Dilemma Prequel

Interesting article. This is one of the reasons independent school families are surprised when the same child earning flexible tuition in high school does not qualify for any financial aid in college, which is often times more expensive than they day school. These same day schools offer merit aid, guaranteed for four years, to top incoming freshman.

I can’t read the article but I live in an area that I am always astounded by parents that send their kids to Germantown Acadamy and Friends Select and Abington Friends and Penn Charter etc and then have no savings for college at all. Some of those schools have 20-30K per year tuition. We have excellent school districts here. Private school education paid for by your tax dollars. Head in the sand. This is a minority of course I am sure and some kids have a wealthy aunt or uncle that will foot the tuition bill but I do know these families!

I am constantly surprised that folks quietly accept that private schools, boarding schools are expensive and that getting financial and merit aid for those options is difficult and rare , yet feel entitled to funds for colleges other than their local choices.

In my area, in part due to high taxes, the public schools are excellent and many well to do families send their kids to their district public schools. Yet, hardly any of those very same families have those very same kids going to the local SUNYs, or any SUNYs, for that matter.

Yet every year there is that wounded roar that comes when it dawns in these families that it is highly likely to cost them full freight, now up to $80k+ to send these kids to the schools they want.

The same goes for families paying for private schools preK-12 in the area. The vast majority of these families do not get scholarships or financial aid from these schools. But for some reason there is that expectation that college is going to be different

It’s even more amazing to me that people expect others to pay for basic living expenses for their kids. Yeah, like college room and board. Yes, it costs money to provide a roof over your kids’ heads, the furnishings, the utilities, the amenities, and to feed them.

Many people that I know send their kids to private schools because they believe that those schools provide a stringer foundation for their children at the time when they are the most formative. The environments are more supportive and can be more amenable to the individual child. I tend to agree personally, having dealt with numerous public school districts and private schools. The private schools I picked absolutely provided a more pleasurable and ideal life for our kids and for me. Not even a contest which were better for my children. But I would not have paid for those private schools if that were not the case.

So, it was no surprise to me that there are many colleges out there that were better choices for my children than the local public choices. I’m in agreement with the many parents who feel that way. But I sure did not expect those choices to cost the same as the local public schools. I dang well knew it was going to cost $10-18k, likely more, for my kids to go to sleep away college. Why that is a shocker to anyone is what surprises me. And, yes, there is that tuition. SUNY Tuition is reasonable, as that goes, and financial aid options are many for lower income families—for the tuition, that is. My youngest could have gone to any number of public state schools tuition free. But getting a dime towards room and board, highly, highly unlikely at the SUNYs despite his excellent academic resume. Heck, we paid full tuition, not a bit of scholarship or aid for him preK-12 at private schools.

In fact, many parents desperately vie for certain highly rated preK programs that charge very high prices for a for a 3 hour day. The lines are miles long to get into some of these programs in NYC. Yet, when it comes time for college, those very same parents (and, yes, in my 40 years dealing with this crowd) are expecting college Money.

We knew a lot of people who felt that they were better off spending the money on private K-12 and that college would “work itself out”. Those kids are at regional schools that no one here on CC has heard of because there was no money saved for college. IMO, that’s nuts!

@mom517 I agree. And tuition for high school students at the private schools you mentioned is ~$40,000.

It is also odd that the “donut hole” incomes of $265k+ would not be able to pay for private K-12 and/or college, given that such incomes are more than double the median even in expensive areas.

Fully clicked cause I thought this thread was about donuts. Carry on!! :slight_smile:

And it’s precisely that opinion that annoys me.

There is nothing wrong with going to a regional school whether you have the money to pay for an expensive college or not. It’s none of your business how people choose to spend their money. If “it will work out” means going to a regional school rather than some school people on CC have heard of, who cares? There are plenty of people I know who send their kids to regional schools because they don’t think spending $80K/year, even if they can afford it, makes sense.

The other implication of this topic that may make people uncomfortable admitting is that a traditional student’s college choice is mostly based on parental financial circumstances and choices, not the student’s own achievements (and even those are substantially shaped by parental circumstances and choices).

Many parents apparently do not want to admit that fact, as evidenced by stories of unwillingness to give their kids the financial limits before making the college application lists.

@4kids4us - I don’t think I was clear. I certainly am not knocking regional schools. They are super options for many people. My H’s company stopped recruiting at one of the schools that gets a ton of love on CC in favor of the regional U because those kids were more prepared for the work force.

The families I was referring to were assuming that paying for private school would ensure “free” college later. That “work itself out” meant full rides at the likes of schools like Vanderbilt, Duke, and JHU because of the private education. They set their kids up for big time disappointment when those big scholarships didn’t come through and there were no college savings to fall back on.

D has two friends at the same regional university. It was the first choice for the one friend. She applied early, was accepted with a full ride, honors college, and was thrilled to not have the stress of dealing with the whole college application process. Huge win for her! Another friend overshot his entire list, he and his mom thought he’d get big money everywhere, and ultimately he had to “settle” at that same school. Emotionally, those two scenarios were very very different for these students. (Student two is now happy and thriving though ; )).

And certainly families are entitled to their own choices and priorities.


For donut hole families with high EFC penalty and more than one child, it’s recommended to live in a good public school district instead of paying for private Pre-K-12. This way kids get decent education and money goes in college savings account.

We sent one of our kids to a very small private single sex religious HS in an affluent area with reportedly great public schools. We were lucky and received enough FA to swing it, although it still strained our budget.

We feel her experience there helped her with her performance on her standardized test scores, and that translated into a full ride at an OOS public.

I cannot speak for all those other families at her private school, but over the years, I heard parents express a desire to keep the tradition going (legacy at that particular school, or a legacy at that type of school).

Some parents felt strongly that the social setting at this school would be more conducive to their daughter’s mental health.

Some felt the school was a good feeder for sought-after elite private colleges and would give their kid a leg up in admissions.

I don’t know! Everyone has to decide when to put in their chips.

what is an “EFC penalty?” I’ve never heard that term.

One of the families we were friendly with at our private preschool had intended to send kids to private k-12 and was surprised that almost no one else in our affluent community was planning to do the same. Shea d her husband grew up elsewhere and went to private schools. Her kids lasted about one year at the private school. They were miserable being separated from neighbors and the parents hated what they saw as too many rules they didnt like ( dress code) the mom said she’d come to the realization that in our town the private school was for rich kids that couldn’t hack it in the excellent but demanding public school

If only it were that simple.

And it completely takes out people who send their children to a private school because of religious reason.

Lots of people and relatives I know send their children to private schools and happily pay tuition because that’s what they did and that is the education they want for their children.

Most of them that I know personally, it’s not to get into a great private college with financial aid. Most of the time, the people I know are happy with the state flagship or the state regional. Or a private college of their denomination.

Most people I know don’t send their children to private day schools with a generous financial aid policy.

Didn’t read the article because it’s behind a paywall. Annoying WSJ.

EFC penalty is paid by families who work hard, live frugally, save and invest so end up with EFC much higher than families earning same but spending lavishly, not saving or investing or hiding it some way.

I still don’t understand what the penalty is? If all of these families are making $265k+, won’t they all have the same EFC and be full pay? Then it just sounds like the ones who saved will be able to pay for private college, if they choose, while the other families won’t.

I think I’m not understanding something.

Yes, saving assets means a slightly higher EFC compared to spending everything. But the saver family is more likely to be able to afford its slightly higher EFC or more, compared to the spender family (which seems to be the type who complains about not getting any FA from any college but cannot pay list price).