College costs are a problem. It is a trillion dollar problem delaying the retirement of the parents and stunting the career growth of the students. Everybody knows it and it’s not going away any time soon. Total student loan debt is now over $1.3 Trillion as of June 2016(1). Planning for your children’s college journey is a personal finance issue. It is often asked, what strategies there are or how much to save? With what type of vehicle to save in? Are there any tricks to the FAFSA process? (In almost all cases there aren’t.) You can save into 529 plans, you can shelter income through deferral to a 401k, you can remove assets from the child’s name, but these strategies are really limited in their affect. What does make a big difference though is whether the child goes to college in-state or out. That is a communication issue, not a personal finance issue. Kids go out of state for all sorts of reasons, not all of them logically thought through. Ever hear a 17 year old say they want to attend that public university half way across the country for $50,000 a year because the campus layout really fit them? But hey this is your kid we are talking about, you want the best for them. If the communication is good though they might go in-state and love it, saving you in some cases tens of thousands of dollar in the process. With that said here are 10 things you can say to your children that hopefully makes them realize the advantages of going in-state, without making you sound like a nagging parent.
1. “Your network is important.” – Who you meet in college sometimes shapes your life. You meet your spouse, business partner, lifelong friends and more. That network will shape your career and you want it to be as robust as possible.
2. “How a campus looks has no bearing on your career.” – This is just sales 101 by the universities.
3. “The kid sitting next to you in class will pay $20,000 less.” – Have them think about this for a moment. Same class, same teacher, same diploma. It goes against all the laws of supply and demand, which hopefully they learn in their general economics class. The cost of something is supposed to be determined partly by its demand. But with a public college the cost is determined by how far the child happened to be born away from the school. Ohio State for example, chosen only because it has the largest attendance in the country among state schools, is $19,192 higher if you are out of state. University of Maryland is $21,863 higher. All data from CollegeData.com(2).
4. “This is the math.” – Show them the actual numbers; costs, earning potential, potential debt. So many kids are oblivious to the actual numbers and what they mean. It’s a perfect opportunity to have a family discussion about real life and the future.
5. “Look at this school that accepted you.” – Apply to as many in-state schools as makes sense for you. Kids want acceptance, they want to feel like they are wanted. Maybe one of the local quality schools will offer them a partial scholarship. Maybe just being accepted makes them think about the school differently.
6. “We promise we won’t pop in.” – Let’s face it, some kids pick a school that is as far away from their parents as possible.
7. “General studies are the same no matter where you go.” – The first year of college and possibly the first two years, the student is taking classes that are same wherever you go. Make a deal with them if you have to that if they take those classes locally they can transfer to that expensive school when they are a junior. By then who knows maybe they don’t want to transfer.
8. “We can afford to buy you a car if you go in state.” – Self-explanatory.
9. “Go to grad school out of state.” – Here’s where you can use the statistics that show where you go for your undergraduate degree isn’t as important as just graduating.(3)
10. “We simply can’t afford to send you there.” –Here’s the biggest one. If this is the truth then it has to be said.
Brian established PSG Clarity as a division within the firm Planning Solutions Group to focus on clients under a given net worth, instead of above it. Brian exclusively works with people who DON’T feel wealthy. In his 15th year in the financial planning field, Brian focuses his practice in the areas of retirement planning, investments, & insurance protection, with a special interest in assisting public sector employees. He is the author of “Total Compensation: A Practical Guide to Federal Employee Benefits” and “The Personal Finance Handbook”, a Guide to the Most Common Personal Finance Questions”. He is the host of the bi-weekly TV show “Your Future Your Finances” which airs on channel 16 MMC in Montgomery County MD and on YouTube. He has contributed articles to, or been quoted in, The Wall Street Journal, FedSmith.com, The Business Monthly, Nerdwallet.com, and Credit.com, among others. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®), & Certified in Long Term Care (CLTC). He holds his FINRA Series 7, & 66 registrations. Brian graduated from Towson University with a B.S. in Business Administration & a minor in English. He lives with his wife Merin & their daughters Charlotte & Caroline in Odenton, MD.