College finances- balance & budgets

financesThe first semester of college officially ended today for Jake. This morning I received a text message from him that read: “One down, 7 more to go.” (And we are hopeful that it will just be seven semesters more.) I could sense great relief in his message.

This semester has been one riddled with adjustment and learning – for all of us. I would call it the “B & B” semester – Balance & Budget. Like any big change, it has taken a little time for us to sort it all out. Since Jake’s college is only 15 minutes from home, he frequently stopped by for brief visits. Those visits were usually accompanied with a basket of dirty laundry, a craving for a home-cooked meal, or to grab something quickly from home (including a little pocket money). There are pros and cons, of course, to living so close. For example, because of this close proximity, we originally had assumed that Jake would still join us for Sunday dinners or other family-related informal events. Some weeks he chose to and other weeks he had different plans. We had to alter our expectations and respect his new-found independence and freedom. There were times when both my husband and I needed to recall memories of our own college days to gain a better perspective and remember what it’s like to be 19 years old!

Just as we had made progress adjusting to the changes that stem from having a first-year college student, Jake approached us this past weekend with a surprise announcement. He has decided to move back home for the next semester. (Isn’t that the way it goes – you just figure something out and it changes again!) While he enjoys living in the dorm and being on campus, he’s made a pragmatic and cautionary decision based on the unknowns for next year’s financing options and the economy. The savings from living at home second semester will ensure available money for his sophomore year. Given today’s economic uncertainty and the fact that we will have two in college next year, it’s hard to argue the logic.

Jake’s decision requires him to submit a residential agreement request to his college. Most college residential agreements are contracts that commit the student for the full school year. Requests to change the contract are evaluated on a per student basis and are potentially assessed fees and/or penalties. We have contacted the college and are currently in the process of completing the necessary request forms. According to the housing office, they have received a number of such requests due to economic reasons and are currently evaluating each of them.

I won’t deny that upon hearing Jake’s decision to move home, I felt like an emotional grab bag – surprised, happy, sad, anxious, uncertain, etc. There are mixed feelings about his decision for all of us, but we’ll figure it out and find the right balance – again – to make it all work!


College Finances and Bills