Comparing college costs

comparing costsLast week I picked up a friend from the airport to gather with six others for a weekend college pals get-together. I met her in my sophomore year of college when she moved into my dorm as a freshman. We had great fun that year and formed a lifelong friendship. So when spring came and we learned she may not be able to return to the college the next year because her family could not afford it, a group of us went to the Dean of Students to see if there were any other financial aid options available to help her. In our youth, it didn’t seem possible that a very bright student willing to serve on residence staff and work a second job on campus could not be awarded enough grants to cover the costs of the education. But we were sent away with no assistance.

Her mother came to pick her up on move-out day as a group of young women stood on the sidewalk and cried. At the time, I was only thinking of how sad it was for our friend to leave. Now, I realize the pain her mother must have felt knowing that despite years of work and careful living, she just couldn’t give her child this opportunity. Fortunately, she was able to complete her degree while living at home and attending a college in her home state.

I’m thinking about this as we charted out my son’s college choices for him. He received the final acceptance letter last week. With that in hand, we were able to define the exact cost of his options and lay out how the financing can work.

Option A: State University
Tuition ………………… $13,520
Room/Board ……….. $ 7,700
Fees …………………….. $ 600
Books …………………. $ 1,200
Miscellaneous ……. $ 2,000

Option B: Private University
Tuition ………………… $37,020
Room/Board ……….. $ 9,770
Fees …………………….. $ 300
Books …………………. $ 2,000
Miscellaneous ……. $ 2,000

Option A totals $25,020. My husband’s employment at another college offers a $5,000 grant and we will contribute $10,000 to the fixed costs. This leaves $10,020 for our son annually.

Option B totals $51,090. My husband is employed at this university which removes $37,020 or the full tuition. We would also contribute $10,000 to the other costs, leaving my son with $4,070 annually.

When he took his first look at the numbers, my son’s reaction was pained, possibly annoyed at us. We have been very clear with him that he would take part in his college costs, but perhaps he felt that of $25,000, he should handle maybe $500?

Within these numbers, we are putting our portion to the exact costs. This means the actual amount my son will face is up to him. Paying for books and “Misc.” can mean he looks for used texts and bargain shops to help his budget or he can live like a king and pay accordingly. We walked him through options he has, including the fact that last summer he earned close to $3,000 at his summer job, which he will have again. Using $2,500 toward his costs, the possible debt he will have after the four years could be $30,000 at the high end and lower if he works even a few hours on campus to handle some living expenses. I actually don’t think this is too bad. The stories of other recent graduates with $50,000-80,000 in payback tell me he will be in a good place. Couple this with the fact that starting salaries are very good for the areas he is planning to study, he will not be choked with debt as he starts his independent life. And in the meantime, we will not be bankrupt by covering our portion.


Tuition and Bills