Financial Decisions We Have Made to Finance College

Posted July 23rd, 2009 by collegemomindebt and filed in Finances, Parent to Parent
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We did not save enough money to finance our daughters’ full college educations.  In fact, the amount we had in savings would only have gotten one of our daughters through a few months of school.

It wasn’t that we hadn’t tried to save the money.  It was just that life kept happening.  I got sick and had to make serious changes to get well again.  My husband grew tired of working for others and so we started our own business which took years to turn profitable.  We had a third child.  You know how it goes — mostly good stuff — but life interruptions, nonetheless.

So we had to make some tough decisions.

One set of decisions we made was to choose not to provide our daughters with cars to drive and not even to add them to our auto insurance so they could drive our car.  While our daughters often have reminded us that many of their friends had cars or were driving their parents cars from sophomore year of high school on, we reminded them that the thousands of dollars we saved and continue to save each year was going directly into their educations.  And those educations, in turn, would allow each of them to buy a much better car than we could have provided them at age 16.  We also reminded them that we were/are able to drive them wherever they need to go – not cool, but practical.

Another set of decisions was to help our daughters apply for multiple scholarships – help them complete the numerous forms, interviews and steps required.  Through this process we found that it was good to go after scholarships that were new.  Often the number of applicants for a new scholarship opportunity is not as great as for scholarships that have been around for a while.  Therefore, the chance of getting a new scholarship is considerably higher than for older scholarships.  We also found that going for scholarships that were only open to limited groups such as only open to members of a certain credit union or only open to residents of certain cities (such as Chamber of Commerce or Rotary sponsored scholarships) helped increase the chance of getting a scholarship.

Another decision we made was to get our taxes and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) done as early as possible each year.  This is a significant pain (did I say that?), I mean worthwhile effort.  Some years daughter number one and I would be on the phone and online in the FAFSA website at the same time so as to complete the form accurately and early.  I remember the trips to the filing cabinet to pull data and running back to the computer to enter data.  However, in the end it was worth it because completing the form proved that our income level was low enough each year to allow our daughters to receive some grants as well as low interest loans.

Finally, we made the decision to take out loans – some that our daughters will need to repay and others (more) that we as parents are repaying.  While we tried as much as possible to avoid debt, we have chosen to believe that educational loans are good debt because they will help each of our daughters become independent and should result in an increase in earning power for each of our daughters.

While “collegemomindebt” may not be one of my most enjoyable roles, it is one I embrace because I am looking for the long term reward, not the short term financial situation.

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