The Value of an Education: Paying for College

moneyWhen I chose to attend an expensive private college, my parents didn’t bat an eye.  Okay, maybe they did behind closed doors, but in front of me, they never complained, never argued with my decision, never made me feel guilty for choosing a school that cost far more than any of the state universities.

Not only that, but they helped me to pay for it.  Growing up, my dad set aside college money for me every year on my birthday.  (I remember while growing up thinking I’d so much rather have new toys than these mysterious dollars deposited into an account somewhere.)

I graduated with student loan debt– but not much.  I wasn’t saddled with a burden too big for me to bear.  In fact, I paid off my loans about three years after I graduated.

I’m blessed.  I know it.

And that’s the point: I am so grateful for this incredible gift, this huge sacrifice my parents made to help put me through school– not only school, but the school of my choice!  As a college recruiter, I so often see parents who refuse to help their children pay for a college degree.  For some of them, it’s not a choice: they simply cannot help.  There is no money available to help put their child through school.  But for others, it is a decision.  These parents believe that their child will not understand the value of an education unless they put themselves through school on their own.

It frustrates me.

Perhaps when I was 18 years old, I couldn’t understand this, having been so coddled and supported by my amazing parents.  But I certainly did at 21.  And more and more every year since then.  I never, ever take my college education or experience for granted, and I am so terribly grateful to my parents for their sacrifices.  (If you were to ask them, they would say, “It was no sacrifice.”  That’s the kind of people they are.)

In the US, the family is expected to assist the student in paying for an education.  Even the terminology of the index number the FAFSA is coming up with shows this: it is calculating an expected family contribution (EFC).  I’m not sure when it became popular for parents to ask their children to tackle the cost of college on their own, but it frustrates me when families say that students won’t understand the value of an education unless they foot the bill.

That simply isn’t true in my case.

There are a about a million caveats to every side of the debate, I know.  But I just wanted to throw my thoughts out on the table.

And, Mom and Dad?  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for never making me feel guilty for choosing Northwestern.  Thank you for the years of hard work and saving.  These things, more than anything else, showed me the value of an education.

Love you.

Image credit: Pixabay

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2 thoughts on “The Value of an Education: Paying for College

  1. Good post, Jackie! I am actually a financial aid administrator (by day) so this is right up my alley. I always found it interesting that, in my experience, it’s the parents who can afford to pay for college the most that often won’t, and those who struggle financially are often determined to find a way to make it happen. I do think it’s a good idea for students to contribute somehow, and not get a total “free ride.” Even if it’s just paying for books, or whatever they can, I think it’s important for it to be a combined effort.

    • I agree, Janet. I always encourage students to work every summer, to (usually) get a campus job, to keep their grades up and to apply like crazy for scholarships! I didn’t know you worked in financial aid! 🙂

      And yes, it drives me crazy when parents won’t help their kids. “We just can’t,” they say, and I want to say, “You could if you didn’t have a vacation home and two boats.”

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