Jul 20, 2011

How will I put them all through college?

A common misconception in our society is that parents are obligated to pay for their children's college.  Every financial adviser my husband and I have talked to has questioned our plans in this regard.  Parenting magazines (whatever they're worth) offer tips to save for it.  Complete strangers who find out we're still planning on having more kids often ask about it.  College is expensive, the costs are rising, and in this economy, many parents are concerned about what they will do when their kids graduate from high school.  Having a large family makes the task seem even more daunting.

If you are planning on flipping the bill, good for you.  Don't let me stop you.  It's a personal choice.

But here's a little secret.  Psst!  (whispering)  You don't have to!

You don't have to pay for their college education!  Really.  My parents of 11 and my husband's parents of 3 both made the conscious choice to not pay for their children's college, and as college graduates, my husband and I are GRATEFUL for that choice.  We both value our education more because we had to work our way through it ourselves.  Doing well academically was important to us because we wanted to be able to get scholarships.  We both graduated debt free.

My husband was lucky, he was valedictorian and had a full-ride scholarship.  He still had to pay for room and board when he left home, and working to pay for that was an important lesson for him.

My parents did help pay for my first year of college, and it was very appreciated, but after that I was on my own and the real learning began.  The biggest thing that they contributed was free room and board while I was going through college.  It's hard to find a scholarship equal to that!  I never lived off of ramen noodles.  Thanks mom!  I worked very hard to find scholarships I could apply for and tried several.  Some of them I actually won, and I appreciated them even more because of the work that went into them.  Those scholarships made my education possible.  Various ones were from the school, one was from 4-H, and one was from Mountain America Credit Union.  I also paid for a lot of it myself, even taking a semester off and going part-time one year because I couldn't afford to go full-time.  But I did finish, and I didn't bring any college debt into our marriage.

I never did apply for a grant.  That was a personal choice, I didn't think that tax payers should have to pay for my education.  I'm proud of that decision.  However, I do have several friends who came from large families who qualified for a huge amount of federal aid because they came from large families.  My husband's father was a school teacher, his mother a homemaker, and with three children they just barely didn't qualify.  With four children, they would have.

Paying for my own schooling was a valuable life lesson for me.  I am responsible for my own education, and I did a lot of soul-searching to decide if college was important for me, and why.  I looked into a lot of different options.  Not all young adults want to go to college, and finding those other alternatives and choosing them is another growing experience that they might miss out on if they feel entitled to their parental college stipend.

My brother just younger than me decided to go to a tech school.  He then got a well-paying job working machinery.  That job is now putting him through college off and on as he chooses.  He was such a good student at the tech that they hired him to be a teacher, so he works there part-time as well.  He is financially prepared to provide for a family, and his monthly rent to my parents is a great blessing to them.  He's handsome and single, look out world!

My sister dreamed of traveling the world, and she really has.  She paid her expenses and traveled to China to teach English.  Twice after that the program paid her expenses as she worked as a mentor, overseeing and helping other young adults in the program.  She traveled to Ukraine and China.  Wow!  How do you put a value on that experience?  Pre-marriage, young adulthood is a time for learning and personal growth.  It is a time for becoming.  My sister's experience and service abroad has served her well.  Now she is applying for a midwifery school.

My next brother is currently serving an LDS mission.  I look forward to seeing what he will decide to do with his life after that.

My younger siblings are looking into other fields.  Some are college-bound, not all.  One dreams of being a veterinarian.  I chose music because it was something that I could do on the side, part time, if I needed to contribute to the family finances.  As the title of my blog suggests, what I really dreamed of in my youth was to be a mother.  You don't need a degree to do that!  Most of what I have learned to help me in THIS career has been self-taught through the books I have read and on-the-job training.  Oh yes.  Being the oldest of eleven children helped prepare me for that too.

Other options for young adults are apprenticeships, entrepreneur endeavors, tech schools, and yes, even service to the community.  College is nice, but it is not necessary for becoming a productive, successful member of society.  Nor is it prerequisite for being an intelligent human being.  Teachers teach, students educate.  I am a student of life.

So don't worry, parents, you don't have to pay your child's way through college.  Myth busted.


Jedda said...

I love this idea. I think it is absurd to think your parents have to pay for your education. It's an entitled way of thinking to me. Both my husband and I paid for our own college expenses and worked while we were in college to make it happen. There are many ways to make ends meet and we both think we got more out of our college experience because of it--we got work experience as well as school experience! We feel lucky to have done it ourselves without bringing debt to our marriage. Thanks for your thoughts :)

Tamsyn Spackman said...

Thank you for sharing your experience as well. I have been finding that lot of people feel this way.

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