Reflecting on how we prepared for college costs

preparing for college costsNow that our twins have been accepted at their dream school, they’ve moved on to other pressing college questions. For Mom and Dad, of course, the most urgent question is how to pay. But for our son and daughter – and many of their friends – the quandary of the moment is whether or not to go out for Freshman Rush.

We live in the South, and fraternities and sororities are huge here. I elected to forgo the Greek life when I was in college, and my California educated husband attended a small, private college where it just wasn’t a big deal. I have often regretted my decision. The “sisterhood” can be invaluable in forming close relationships that last a lifetime and can be a big career boost, too. In the South, “brothers” frequently hire other “brothers. “On the other hand, it’s far from cheap to join a fraternity or sorority. At our twins’ college, dues and activities will run about $1400 to $1700 per semester. That doesn’t include the enormous amount of clothing our stylish daughter will require for Greek events.

Our son is not sure if he wants to go out for Rush; our daughter is positive the sorority life is right for her. It’s interesting that our teens’ male friends are all like my son in that they haven’t decided yet, while the girls have very strong feelings on the subject. Most of them will choose to try Rush.

Ultimately, we will leave the decision to our children. We are also thinking very seriously about requiring them to pay for at least a portion of their Greek dues.

We are in the process of trying to decide what our twins will be financially responsible for in college, and what we will take on for them. Since we have purchased a condominium for them to live in, their housing is taken care of. But, it would teach them a lot of responsibility to pay at least a small rent to us. Utilities are another thing that we know we will require them to pay. Our son, who likes to live in Arctic conditions, may decide 60 degrees is a little too cool when he gets that enormous electrical bill.

We also expect them to work part-time while in school. Many, many students do that. You have to appreciate something more when you have to work to pay for it. I didn’t work while in college. While it was great then, I can see how it would have been a great experience. My husband received no financial help from his parents and probably worked too hard while he was in school.

At least once per day, I reflect on college costs and wish we had been more diligent about college savings. I know all the financial experts say to put retirement first. You can get a loan for college, but not for retirement. Still, it would be great to have college be a financially painless project. I once heard of a mom who saved the change every time her family went through the drive-thru. When her oldest child entered college, she had saved enough this way to pay for the first year! There are so many ways to save with very little effort, so if you have young children, start now. When they’re in kindergarten, college tuition bills seem very far away. They’re not.


Saving for College