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The Emotions Behind Paying for College


In my work with parents of college bound kids, a lot of the discussion centers around the family finances and the numbers. You might be surprised that the discussion doesn't start there though. I help you take a step back when you're thinking about paying for school.

One of the first questions I ask you is "What was your college experience regarding money?" I listen to your story to start piecing together clues as to how you are going to approach the funding decisions for your own kids.

The Generous Parents

Some parents had their whole college experience paid for and never worried about money. These parents usually either want to provide that experience for their kids, or the opposite: they want their kids to have some skin in the game and work for it.

Emotions get high when you can't afford to pay for school, or you don't want to. You lose sleep about not being able to provide for your child. Your child may have grown up with the expectation you will pay for school. They may have a dream school in mind, and it's quite upsetting if that option isn't available.

Those Who Worked

Others had to work through college. Here the reactions are usually two-fold as well. Either the parents want their kid to have to work to pay for college, or they want to remove that burden from them and pay their way.

However, you may not realize that it's impossible to work your way through school like you did in the past. The cost of attending school is so high compared to what your child can earn to pay for it, that they don't have the same options you did. You may be disappointed your child will miss out on an experience you feel built your character.

Those Who Borrowed

The third most popular story I hear is about student loans. Either the parents had to borrow a lot, and it may have affected their ability to save and they wish they hadn't done it. Or, they borrowed minimally and are glad that it taught them to be responsible and helped them build a credit history.

You may be aware of the student loan debt crisis. You may know that graduates are leaving school with ever increasing piles of debt that delays their ability to get established on their own. It's more important than ever that you help your child make responsible borrowing decisions.

The Budgeters

Finally, there are parents who got an amount from their family that they could contribute, and they were expected to choose schools wisely and make up the difference with work and loans.

If you were in this type of family, you may want to plan a similar budget for your child or children. Others of you may have resented that you didn't have more choices, and want to send your child wherever they want to go.

The Emotions Behind it All

It's rare where I get a couple who both had the same experience. When you take into consideration all the different experiences that parents bring to the table regarding paying for college, it makes sense that emotions play a big role in the college funding decisions families make. 

If one of you had a generous parent, and your spouse worked through college, you may need to discuss how you want to approach paying for college. If one of you borrowed and regretted it, while the other had a budget and borrowed responsibly to fill the gap, you will need to reconcile these experiences into a family plan.

Part of what I think makes an outside opinion like mine so valuable, is that I can help couples like you have discussions about what experiences and emotions are driving your college plans for your kids. Many of you tell me it's the first time you've discussed it with each other and heard the other person's story. It's important to work through the emotions before we get to the finances.

Reach out for an introductory meeting to work through your college funding philosophy.