Is a student's preference or 'fit' the most important factor in picking a school

I would love some inputs - my daughter has a great $$$$ option at one school but prefers one that is equally good but will force her (and us) into student/parent loans.
She accepted at Texas A&M (good $$$$), Colorado School of Mines (her preference), Cal Poly SLO (same cost as Co)
She plans to study Chem Engr or Bio/med Engr

She was wait listed at her faves: Rice, Vandy – giving up on those.

Any inputs/opinions would be appreciated (my first post and first kid of 4 going of to college this fall 2015)

Fit is important but finances are definitely a part of the decision for most people.

You need to figure out how much you can afford and have enough for a similar contribution for each of the other three kids and your own retirement. Parental loans probably mean unaffordable.

This limit should have been discussed before she made her application list.

Umm… first of 4 kids? I would not do parent loans.

I agree, no parent loans. But…what you don’t do for one, you must not do for others. With four kids, affordable is the key word here. For one child who can get merit, a “good” school might be affordable, for another, a “community college” might be affordable. I think I’d set a $$ amount that I was willing to pay per year and stick to that for each child.

I was fifth in line. Be careful what you commit to for the first one, as it may be the overriding factor in all the other decisions.

Hi, dobby. :slight_smile:

Fit is important; finances are more important. How much are we talking in loans?

To me, affordable and school has the major/program with decent quality would be more important. After that, I would let my kid pick any school on the list.

I think I “fit” well in a Lambourghini Venero Roadster It would be good for my self-esteem and garner lots of networking opportunities.

But I think a Toyota Prius will serve me just fine.

With three more kids to put through college, there is no way I would go down the loans road. Especially not when she has an outstanding option that would not require loans.

My son just graduated from college debt free and I cannot express how good of a feeling that is.

Count me in the no parent loan group. With three younger children, that just may not be financially sustainable. I’m a strong believer in fit but within constraints. It sounds like it’s time for a family meeting to discuss honestly and openly about the cost of college on family finances.

I had to eliminate one of D’s acceptances because it was unaffordable. She knew when she applied that this may be the case (I ran the NPC and it was very accurate in our case). She was fine with that.

I think you have to talk to her about finances for all…Say that your goal is to be able to get all 4 of your kids through college. You can’t take loans to do that and you don’t want to burden her with loans when she graduates. You do want her to go to an excellent school which Texas A&M is…try to remind her why she applied there.

Many parents eliminate choices…my older DD had 2 $40K+ schools and 3 under $30K schools after scholarships…so right off the bat we eliminated the two higher cost ones. She didn’t end up going to the cheapest, but they were all in the same ball park.

Finances really need to be a consideration. I have a family member who let the oldest pick a high cost school with no loans. The younger sibs had to look at cost and take loans. Did not really seem fair. There was some change in circumstances, but more of what I would call wishful thinking that the money would somehow appear for the younger kids.

My kids were not able to pick the highest cost school if there was a more affordable option that offered a reasonably similar level of quality.

If you have to borrow for this kid, you will have a very hard time coming up with the money for the others and still affording to retire some day.

I am not a believer that everything has to be even to be fair for all the kids. My older sister was a very intellectual student. She chose an LAC that my parents really couldn’t afford, and after a year transferred to the state flagship. None of the rest of us expected to get to do the same, and those of us who went to college all went to state schools, sometimes living in the dorms, sometimes living at home, almost always paying for a lot of it ourselves. It wasn’t really a fun year for her because money was always an issue, she couldn’t travel home a lot, she didn’t have loans (years ago, no easy to get student loans).

My own kids have very different needs for school, and one goes to a very expensive private but my OOP is much less there because of scholarships. Her sister isn’t the same type of scholar, goes to an inexpensive state school, but costs me more. The both have what they need, and I won’t be giving the one that costs me less the difference when they are done. It is not just ‘education money’ but family money, and if it isn’t used for education it will be used for fun things like insurance, medical bills, clothing, food, housing.

To the OP, think about what your younger kids will need. By the choice of colleges, I’m betting this daughter is majoring in engineering. Are the others also science/math students? Are they going to want or need to go to a specific type of college? Do they go around singing the state flagship fight song? I wouldn’t prevent this child from going to a more expensive college just because you have more kids coming up, but I’d look at what you think they might need.

That being said, I wouldn’t take out Parent loans. If she wants to go to Mines or CalPoly, she needs to figure it out. What can you provide, loans, scholarships? How much can she make? Both of those schools are probably too expensive for an OOS student as neither state gives OOS students much aid.

Parent Loans? Sorry, that college/university would go right off the list.

Run the numbers:

True, but a parent wants to avoid having to tell kid #2 (#3, etc.) something like “we took on a lot of debt to send kid #1 to a $50,000 per year school, so we have hardly any money left, so we can only spend $5,000 per year on your school [means $15,000 per year limit after kid #2 adds direct loans and work earnings]”.

I live very close to Mines, know several engineering grads from Mines and A&M and am myself doing the engineering college search with my HS junior. I would not put my family into to debt to attend Mines over A&M. First A&M provides other options if she decides after fresh year she does not want to major in engineering. A&M engineering is as good a school if not better than Mines. Per our Mines friends- Mines is a very intensive weed out program-sink or swim and 1/3 flunk out. Mines is very up front about this. They have all steered my son away from Mines because they think (and know from personal experiences) that other programs are run in a “healthier” manner and he will have a happier university life elsewhere. Only 19% of the student body is female. So that may be a plus or minus depending on the young woman.

^^^but that’s pretty much what happened at my house. My sister’s one year at an LAC cost more than any of the rest of us got for an entire education. We weren’t bitter because 1) we saw that it was a big mistake and 2) even if it had worked out, she was the ‘smart’ one and deserved it. Also, we got what WE wanted too, and most of us wanted the big, fun state school. That’s why I said look at the situation, what the other kids might want/need. I still don’t think it needs to be the same amount to be fair. My niece picked a fairly expensive private school, her brother always wanted to go to the state flagship. If he’d been older and picked the flagship, should that limit the younger children to that as a maximum? Should the last child get to go wherever and use up all the leftover money or have to do what older siblings did?

In my situation my kids started school in the same year, so I wasn’t guessing what they needed or wanted, but I pay about twice as much for one kid as the other. Again, both got what they wanted and needed. I don’t feel the need to make it even and they don’t feel cheated.

You probably would be thinking differently if the big fun state school you wanted was unaffordable within the budget constraint imposed by your parents spending so much money on your older sister’s LAC, so that you were forced to commute to the local non-flagship state university whose program in your major was not that good and whose social scene was limited because most students were commuters who left as soon as classes let out.

The parental contribution need not be equal to be fair. But parents should consider carefully whether the amount spent to fulfill the first kid’s fit needs and wants will prevent them from fulfilling the second (third, etc.) kid’s fit needs and wants. This may require estimating the second kid’s potential college costs when evaluating how much can be spent on the first kid – which can involve a lot of guesswork.

Remember, in the OP’s case, sending the first kid to the expensive school will require parent loans, which implies that nothing will be left for the next kid, so if the next kid wants something other than a school that gives a full ride, the next kid will be much more constrained.

Again, that’s pretty much what happened, except that there wasn’t even money left for the state schools. There was no money to being with, this was in the 1970s, before guaranteed loans. They never should have taken out the private loan, but they didn’t know any better and after one year were so in debt that they couldn’t afford anything for the rest of us. My first semester was at the state university in my home town (my parents moved, so I did live in a dorm), at the same university I’d gone to for 5th and 6th grade at the lab school. It was fine. I later went to a school about 30 miles from their new home, but lived in cheap apts. It was fine. It was what I needed. It wasn’t Berkeley, which is what I wanted, but it was fine.

I don’t think the OP should take out loans for ANY of the kids when there are other good options. I don’t think OP should do it if this was an only child, because I don’t really believe in Plus loans. I do think kids are different and the decision isn’t just about what is fair, that one child got to go to Harvard so another should get money to go to a similarly priced school. No. If Child One got into Harvard that might be the best school for that child. If the next child isn’t as good a student, wants to be a nurse or a teacher so would be better served going to an instate school, that second child shouldn’t get to demand an equal amount just because an older sibling got to go to Harvard. The second or third child shouldn’t be limited to what an older child got if the family can afford more. Each child should get what he/she needs and is within the budget.