Bruce & I have three sons (two of them from my first marriage). They are getting older, and high school graduation is fast approaching for my oldest – just over two years away!
For lots of reasons, including the fact that for a (short) while I was a single mother with limited income, I waited a long time to open college savings accounts for the boys. Even when I did open them, the amount I contribute monthly isn’t very much. So right now, in my oldest son’s account, there is about enough money to pay for one semester of courses, and maybe a few books. I don’t want to put my husband’s retirement (or mine) at risk any further than it already is, so while we are continuing our contributions, we are not increasing them.
As well, here in Canada, access to student loans is based on parental income, and we make too much for our sons to qualify for loans. I would love to be able to help them get through school without loans – I was able to graduate without loans, and I can’t imagine how tough things would have been if I’d had student loans to pay back!
We have been very honest with the boys. My oldest knows that we will give him as much help as possible, but he will have to work to pay for college. He has started looking for work, but being a fairly typical teenage boy, it may be a few months before he finds something.
So how can we help him pay for college without loans? Well, here’s my plan, and how I’ve explained it to my son:
- We live in a city with two really good universities, and a good community college. My oldest wants to study psychology, and the university five minutes from our house has a good program. So long as he attends school locally, he can live at our house free. That covers rent, food, and laundry. He’ll have to work for spending money. Estimated savings: $10,000 – $15,000 per year.
- Tuition and books for this school, for his desired program, will run at approximately $5,000 – $6,000 per year. Length of time in program will be 4-5 years. Total estimated cost: $20,000 – $30,000.
- Scholarships will be available, although I’m not counting on many. I will have him apply for anything he is eligible for, and hope he can receive a few. I was fortunate enough to win 3 myself, totalling $3,200 – at a time when my tuition cost $1,400 for a whole year! The company I work for does give out an annual scholarship of $1,000 to any child of any employee – all the child has to do is write an essay. Trust me, he’ll be writing an essay so long as I work there! Estimated value: $4,000 – $5,000.
- Depending on where he can find work, there are some companies here that will help with tuition after the first 6-12 months of employment. If he can get hired on with a company like that, he’ll get some assistance.
By the time he starts his first semester, I figure our oldest son will have between $3,500 and $4,000 in his RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan, similar to a 529 plan). That is if he does not get a job and save any money at all. If he gets a job and can save even $100.00 per month, he will easily have $6,000 saved – enough for his entire first year of school.
When we first really started talking about college a couple of years ago, he freaked when I explained how much it was going to cost. How on earth was he going to come up with $25,000 in less than four years?!?!
So I explained that in 4 years, he didn’t need $25,000 – he needed $6,000. After that, he could work part time all year, and full time all summer, to earn the $6,000 he would need for his second year. I also told him we would help as much as we could – buying some of his textbooks, etc. (Most of which will be purchased online or used – or both).
And that is how we’re planning to get our boys through college, (hopefully) debt free. Because we started saving for the younger two a little sooner, there will be a little more money saved up for them, but in the end, all three of them will have to work for their education. I worked all through my college years, and graduated debt free; hopefully I can help my boys do the same.