Upper-Middle Class but Frugal, Indebted Parents?

My parents’ combined annual income is between $250,000-$300,000 which is a lot of money compared to most people, but my parents still have financial issues:
We live in Silicon Valley and things are a bit expensive here like housing for example.
My parents moved to the U.S. at an old age, 38-39, (7 years ago) and they got their master’s when they were in their early forties. Each of them has about $100,000-$150,000 worth of debt on student loans.
We bought a house two years ago for $600,000, currently owing $510,000.
They have nothing saved up towards my tuition.

My parents are always short on money and they spend a lot of time balancing their books, paying bills strategically and counting up all their change.
I myself am a little confused on why things are so bad (people everywhere in the U.S. have just as much debt as us with a smaller salary)

My dad says he can’t spend more than $25,000 on my tuition. If I don’t get a good enough package, I am going to have to go to the best in-state public UC school that accepts me (realistically, UCSB at best, UCSC at worst).
What are the chances, I’ll get $20,000 taken off my school fees and what is the best way to get enough financial aid before enrolling in a university?
Has anyone else been in the same position, and if so how did you and your parents work it out?

You are very fortunate. Your dad is willing to pay enough that you will be able to attend a state school. You can apply to some schools where you have a chance to get merit, as well. That is the only way you’ll get any type of aid, because you won’t qualify for need-based aid.

Don’t dwell on what you can’t have. Be grateful for what you have, and find a way to make it work. You’ll do fine.

Did you apply to schools that award merit scholarships? Many private schools cost $65,000 so you will need close to a full tuition scholarship.

You won’t qualify for financial aid with your parents’ income.

Honestly, I think you will end up at a UC school given what you have written. Many students are in this sort of position.

Attend a community college for two years, then attend a CSU for final two years, pay by the $100,000 ($25,000 x 4) that you dad promised you. I think CSUs are cheaper than UCs (I could be wrong)

You are fortunate. You have good instate options that will be affordable for you.

Learn a lesson from your parents…don’t amass a bunch of debt.

Your parents have a lot of debt and have only recently earned salaries that will put a dent in it over time. I’m going to assume that they took on the student loans for good reasons. It’s got to be very hard for them right now.

I can’t advise you about financial aid or merit scholarships in your case and those are certainly areas you should research with your parents, but I want to emphasize two things:

  1. Your parents did you a favor by giving you an honest sense of their finances before you started your search. Imagine if you got your heart set on a school that accepted you and were told at that point that you could not attend. This way you go in with your eyes open.
  2. It could be so much worse. Attending UCSB or UCSC is not a bad thing! There are people all over the US who would love to have that option. Try to be happy that you have these options.

Best of luck to you!

I just looked up UCSB’s tuition and fees and they are just under 14K for in-state students. That’s well under 25K. If they mean, full cost of attendance by “tuition,” with room and board you’re probably just a bit over the 25K budgeted. The excess could be handled with a part time job, summer employment, or a small loan.

Could be a lot worse. Either UCSB or UCSC - quality education near the beach, good weather, at a bargain price!

For a year or total for 4 years?

Here is the thing. I go to an incredibly elite private school (85% scholarship b/c my parents’ salaries don’t even compare) and I think I’ve been conditioned by the mentality of the school not to think about financial aid.

This is really shallow, but I feel really embarrassed at the idea of having to turn down a school b/c of financial aid.

UC’s will cost you around $30K/year and CSU’s will cost around $20K/year which includes tuition/books/room and board. Discretionary spending is on you. You are eligible for an unsubsidized student loan of $5500 Freshman year, $6500 Sophomore year and $7500 Junior/Senior year. This is enough to cover your costs at a UC and more than enough at a Cal State. Due to your parents income, if you need more than this amount to fund your education, you need to target private schools that offer merit aid based on your academic stats to afford attending. This is life and like other posters have stated, learn from you parents. Do not go into debt for your undergraduate education. Go to a school within your means and consider a more “elite” school for graduate studies. UC’s and Cal States are excellent options so be thankful of the opportunities you have available.

Your parent salaries are $250,000 to $300,000 and you are getting need based money from an elite private high school?

I find this hard to believe. Is it possible your parent income isn’t as high as you think it is?

If your parent incime is that high, I can assure you…elite colleges will not give you need based aid.

Regardless…your parents have $800,000 plus in debt they are paying between their college loans, and house mortgage. This means they likely have loan payments per month in the $9000 range. That’s over $100,000"- year in loan payments. In addition, they have property taxes which are not a bargaining CA. And other loving exoenseslike food, and utilities…and the 15% of the cost of your elite private HS. Because of all,of this debt, they have serious cash flow problems.

You are fortunate to have instate public universities that are more affordable for your family.

What year are you in HS…and what are your stats?

Get over it already. I know LOTS of families earning more than yours, who think paying 65k for college is a total rip-off and just plain refuse to play that game.

Target schools that offer merit money-- there are plenty of desirable ones, and apply to some CA public universities, too.

What year are you in high school?

You say you moved to the US 7 years ago - are you a US citizen?

How are your stats (GPA/PSAT/SAT/ACT)?

If you’re looking at schools in the UCSC to UCSB range, a UC is going to be your best option financially. It’s not worth going into tons of debt for a private school in that range, e.g. Santa Clara Univ.

Take a moment now to read Debt-free U. It might help how you’re feeling. Also, I believe the encouraged track in California is from community college to a UC rather than a transfer to a CSU from the community college. What’s your intended major and career goal? Might you have considered the radical pathway of working until you can be an independent student and qualify for need-based aid calculated only on your (not your family’s) income?

The average household income for families at my school is $500,000. The school has millions in endowment and there are only 600 students in total

UCSB and UCSC are fine schools; you should not be disappointed to have those as realistic choices.

Re #14

CC to UC and CC to CSU are both encouraged routes to a bachelors degree in California. CC students can target schools in either system, depending on their goals and academic performance at CC.

Lucky you to be in a state that has such outstanding schools. Some of us in the northeast are envious!

OP, I get your disappointment and/or frustration, especially given the environment you’re coming from–when you’re in an elite school where everyone is playing the comparison game, re: college acceptances, it sucks. But you’re not alone–there are plenty of high income folks who don’t have the liquid assets for expensive colleges. Likewise, there are plenty of whip-smart “poor” kids who get gapped by the schools they love and can’t afford to attend at all because 10 or 15K a year might as well be a million for them.

The great news for you: you are very, very lucky that despite your parents’ debt situation they are still able to give you 25K a year. That’s a lot of money to a lot of people, and will set you up nicely at a UC–some of the best universities in the entire United States. You may have to take our minimal loans or get a summer job/campus job to make up some small gaps, but nothing that won’t be manageable for you. UCSB is a great school–many people consider it right behind UCB and UCLA. UCSC is no less great–you really can’t go wrong with any UC. You’ll get a world class education at a fair price.

Now, if you need to play the comparison game at school, frankly, you can lie if you want. No one is entitled to know the details of your financial situation or why you’re choosing one school over another. If you go for UCSB, tell them you couldn’t resist the siren call of the beach, or cite a specific program or feature there. Heck, you could play the martyr–that you thought it would be stupid to leave CA given the caliber of the UC system, and you felt making your parents pay 65K a year would be unfair and outrageous. Spin whatever story you want–in the end it doesn’t really matter. You’re going where you need to go, and people can think what they want. The UCs are great and you’re just lucky you live in CA and can take advantage of them at state prices!

@proudterrier thanks so much. I found your answer really helpful and supportive.