Why I'm on the Fence About Paying for College


Or I might be on the fence? I’m not entirely sure. And therein lies the problem.

I’ll be honest here. When I write about YNAB’s Four Rules, I feel pretty confident in my stance. I’ve seen them work over the last decade in hundreds of thousands of separate cases. There’s lots of data there, making me confident in my diagnosis that, well, you need a budget.

Then I sit down to write about kids and college, and you get more questions than answers. I am still right in the thick of figuring out what I believe.

For the next few minutes, I’m stepping down from the budgeting stump, discretely finding a chair in the crowd, and waiting for someone else (perhaps YNAB Nation at large) to take the stage and answer my questions.

Here’s some background for you: I have five kids, ranging in age from three to ten. To the extent that it’s within my power, I want to raise them to be honest, hard-working, and happy.

Once it’s time for these kids to embark on their own, I have the following questions:

  1. Should I encourage (demand?) they obtain a bachelor’s degree?
  2. What about a post-graduate degree?
  3. Should these kids pay for some of their education? All of it?
  4. Should they pay for their housing? Books? Food? Car? Car insurance?
  5. Should each child receive the same help, dollar for dollar?
  6. Should I only help each child as-needed, whatever that means?
  7. Should I heavily influence them to choose an inexpensive (at least for now) option like a two-year community college, which they can then transfer?
  8. Should we “go big” and shoot for the ivy league?
  9. What about a nice state school? (I’ve already paid the taxes!)
  10. Should I help them so they aren’t saddled with student loan debt?
  11. Or should I let them learn the lessons of student loan debt the hard way?
  12. Should Julie and I secure our own retirement (through diligent saving and investing) and, if there are funds available thereafter, help out the kids as needed?
  13. Or should we tell the kids, “Hey, we want to travel so…good luck.”
  14. Am I hurting more than helping by…helping?
  15. Should I look hard at Rule One to see what my priorities really are?

Hold the phone. I do feel a bit better already. That was not on purpose. This is not a rewrite. Question 15 may offer the answers to Questions 1-14.

April is just around the corner, and Julie and I probably need to block out more time than normal for our monthly budget meeting (normal is 10 minutes) because I figure we have about eight years before we have to have some solid answers.

Honest, hard-working, happy kids. We’ll see how Rule One works with that.

YNAB Nation – what have you done? What are you doing? How are you handling these questions with your kids?