College or Bust?

University of Michigan - taken last December when I attended my sister's senior recital

ED: In the following Momversation video = I meant 529 (college savings plan) not 509. I know, you guys. I know. Don't even...

Lately, I've been a bit of an absent-minded non-professor.

Exhibit B: The other night I used Fable's "I like to clean the bathroom floor with this" toothbrush instead of mine. And then Hal was like, "BEC, NOOOOO!!!!" And then he knocked the toothbrush out of my hand like a slow-motion sequence and it went flying into the toilet. Womp.

Exhibit C: I have consistently and pre-maturely packed every necessity we have, specifically toiletries. Not two-minutes after I packed my tampons? I started my period. Double-womp. Same thing with the band-aids and skinned-knees. Triple-dog-womp. Same thing with my brain, emotional equilibrium, short-term memory and ability to multitask. Quadruple-axle womp.

Also, I look like I'm pooping in the still below. Again. Thank you, Momversation!

Do you have a 509 529 savings plan in place for your kids? Will you push your babes toward college? This is one of those topics where Hal and I differ - I think college is totally case-by-case appropriate. I know plenty of self-made college-dropouts who are kicking ass in their various fields without attending a university. On the other hand, I'm the daughter of a Physicist. Clearly he needed a PHD to invent things and save the world.

I digress. I happen to share parenting duties with a man who thinks college is mandatory ANDTHAT'SFINALTHEEND! College was where Hal found himself. Of course he lost himself two years later, but then? He found himself again! Team!

Seriously, though.

I get where Hal's coming from. I do. I just get where I'm coming from, too. #switzerlandish.

Question, then: Are you saving for your kid(s)' college education(s)? Will you pressure your sons and/or daughters to go to university? Why or why not?


P (apropos) S: Congratulations to my sister, Rachel who graduates from the University of Michigan this weekend with a BM (Bachelor of Music) in Flute Performance.
So proud of you, I am. Couldn't be more excited to watch you follow lead your dreams. Life is all yours, Roo. Go, baby, go.


Cave Momma | 9:46 PM

Great topic. The hubs and I have talked about this a few times. Our kids are 2.5 and 1.5 and each has a 529 set up for them. The hubs came from a family where you HAD to go to college and that was the only reason he attended. He chose the easiest route and got a Business degree and took 6 years. Although he hated that he "HAD" to go since he really didn't want to, he loved the social aspect of it and is thankful he went. Just 2 years ago he made a choice to go back to do what he figured out would make him happy and is currently still working towards that goal. In the end, it really helped him but he still feels a strain in his relationship with his dad (mom didn't push).

I on the other hand was expected to go but I also wanted to so there was no need for a push. I never finished a degree and my parents never really bothered me about it. In the end, I am happy with where I am as a stay-at-home-mom and I don't regret a thing.

We will encourage (the magic word) our children to go to college because we feel a degree can help with whatever they choose to do and in any type of job but we aren't going to push too hard or try to force anything. We want them to be happy and if that means no college, so be it.


Agree with you, Cave Momma. Encourage we will also do. :) Encouragement is always a good thing.

caleal | 9:57 PM

I don't have children, but I feel like if I do, I will encourage college. But I will encourage it *more* if I happen to be able to save up enough to cover at least a substantial portion.

My parents were firmly in the COLLEGE. NOW. camp, but I didn't need any push either, I was(am) a nerd. But my parents were unable to save anything. I feel like I shouldn't have been able to enter into such a crippling financial agreement, so young, when I had no idea what was up. Now, six years later and two degrees, I enjoy my field and what I'm doing... but I wonder if I'd enjoyed it more if I'd given it time, saved up some money, fully understood the 30-40 year debt hole I was putting myself in. And starting at 20, 22, feels little to no different than starting at 18, looking backwards at it now.

Apparently I have strong opinions for someone with no children. Shutting the mouth, now.

Ray | 9:59 PM

Big congrats to your sister! =D Does she plan on becoming a music teacher after this?

I don't have any kids, but I'd want them to go to college. I know that even with a degree looking for a job might be hard. But I think it's good to have. Also for lots of jobs: degrees are required.


Caleal - totally appreciate you sharing! That's the thing, right? College is SO important but is it more important than being in crazy debt for decades? I think NOT.

So much of what can be learned in college can be learned OUT of college just as easily. (Not all but SOME.) I didn't go to college because it wasn't for me. BUT I did take college courses, night classes when I wanted to - when a subject interested me and NO EMPLOYER (including when I worked at an entertainment marketing firm, as well as in the non-profit sector) HAS EVER given two shits that I didn't go to college. Not once.

In fact? My NOT going to college got me in the door on several occasions because I was celebrated for my "life experience!" ... Then again, I wasn't exactly going after serious jobs. When Archer was born I was editing an "adult" website. Which was fun. But not exactly rocket science.

Lin | 10:20 PM

Looks like you got your own BM in the video still... (badoom-ching!)

Sorry, that was awful but it made me giggle. ;)

I'm cooking baby #1 for another 6 months still, but this has already come up in our house a couple of times.

First, we want to homeschool and if you are homeschooled you don't usually get a highschool diploma. BUT lots of colleges are accepting homeschooled kids, so who knows what will be happening in 18 years?!

Second, in Canada you can put money away for your kid's schooling, the govt adds to the pot, AND you get it back if your kid decides to skip post-secondary. Not a bad deal!

Third, it's 18 years away. And I haven't even met this person yet. Plus I paid for my own schooling (and so did my brother), and we're doing pretty good. My husband didn't go to post-secondary. Who knows what our kid is going to want? I'd rather save the money now and give them a good childhood rather than getting misty-eyed thinking about them in a cap and gown.

melissa | 3:23 AM

We set up a 529 with the gifts my daughter received when she was born... Since then we've not had much extra to put into it. She's 2, so I think we have a little time.

I'm a little more worried about kindergarten than I am about college, frankly. I'd like to see where she is for that first, before I really think where she is in 16 years.

That being said, we all have dreams for our kids...
My dream is that she's happy in whatever she does. I'll probably ENCOURAGE her to go to college... but if that doesn't happen for whatever reason, I'd like her to be successful in whatever path she chooses.

lisette | 4:56 AM

my daughter is only three and a half months but i'm already thinking about this. maybe it's because i'm still in college so besides baby the other thing on my mind is school school school. i'd like to save up asap but it's going to be difficult because we're struggling right now. my boyfriend and i are on two different sides of this too. he was home schooled for high school and doing online college now and he HATES school, so he says if she's anything like him so long as she finds the right path, college is not the one and only option. i on the other hand would really, really, reaaaaally, love for her to go to college. i think its important to keep your mind fresh and always acquiring knowledge and while you don't have to go to school to do that, i've seen too many people say they can teach themselves and do their own thing, and then end up at home for six years smoking weed everyday, playing playstation, and not doing much of anything else :/ but that could just be the people around me and where i live. (and also our age, i'm going to be 23 in two weeks) if she doesn't jump into school right after high school that's ok too (i didn't) so long as she's doing something productive.

Siobhan | 5:45 AM

Grandma started the 529s for both monsters. I loved college, it took my husband a very long to finish. Neither of us is doing anything along the lines that we thought we would be. I don't really know, I guess. Mostly I just want them to get to kindergarten.

Lulu | 5:50 AM

This is an interesting topic! My husband & I have been talking a lot about this recently as while we assume we will put our children (have one currently, 4 months) through the Japanese school system we might change out minds and go the international school route. As bad as it sounds my son looks more foreign than Japanese so far and this might make it hard for him to fit in the public school system here as I know of alot of other biracial children that have had issues with teasing etc...

So we are starting to set up accounts (I don`t know what a 529 is though) for his future whether we use it early in his life or not I don`t know. His great grandmother has set aside some money for his university and there is another account for another child if we decide to have one.

Education and college education in general are VERY important here. I am not sure how I feel about this- I went to uni because I wanted to but a lot of people in Japan seem to go because they are forced to or don`t see any other way.

Karen Chatters | 6:12 AM

We aren't saving at this point. We felt that it was more important for me to be a stay at home mom to my kid(s) than save for her (them) for college. Maybe someday, if I go back to work, we'll save then. But do I want my kids to go to college, hell's-to-the-YES.

Anonymous | 6:35 AM

I'm a first generation American and neither of my parents graduated college (my dad took a few semesters of classes) and none of my grandparents graduated high school (if they even got beyond elementary or middle school) so my parents were HUGE on the college kick. I always joke that one of my first five words was "college". Lucky for them, I'm a huge nerd and currently working on my second graduate degree.

My husband's family is similar. Neither of his parents went to college, BUT they didn't push the idea and now they have four adult kids, three of whom are floundering for careers and goals and only one of which who is on track to finish his Bachelors. Does this have to do with simply not going to college? No, it's more about parents who have no idea what it means to instill motivation in their kids.

Where I live, it's damn near impossible to get a job interview without a college degree, even for basic administrative positions that involve typing and filing. It's insane.

I will very strongly push for college (I teach college, though, so that's no surprise) but I will understand if they want to take time off before going... but I think the intent to go needs to be there until (like you) they've proven it's not for them. I'm hoping my kids end up being nerds like my husband and me, but more than that I'm hoping they have passion for what they do.

Julie | 6:35 AM

We don't have a 529 savings plan for our daughter. Here's our logic: we are already paying a good amount of money each year for her to attend private school. It is basically the equivalent amount of money we would spend for her college each year.

So we just plan to pay for her college the same way we pay for her current school tuition, out of our regular budget. And we are totally leaving it up to her whether or not she has to go to college. My husband and I both have college degrees and mine is a master's degree. But that doesn't mean we'll force the same path on her.

We also go by the philosophy that we need to save for our retirement first. Because when you get right down to it, if you have no money saved for retirement, no one is going to loan you any. But if you need money for college, there are plenty of loans and grants out there.

kittenpie | 6:48 AM

Misterpie sees university as an absolute. I see it as best in almost all cases, but see room for community college or apprenticing or otherwise getting training for fields where a more practical training makes more sense, or where learning the basic techniques will allow you to take off on your creative wings better. We're saving, though.

Unknown | 7:05 AM

I don't even have kids and I'm planning on opening a 529 in the next year or so. It's a good thing to do if you can afford to save for it, because you can use it to pay for education for anyone in your family. If Archer decides not to go to college but Fable decides she needs a masters and a doctorate, you can use the money you were saving for him, for her--similarly, if neither of them go, you can send the grandkids/nieces/nephews! Education is really important in my family and I definitely expect my kids to go. I also expect it to cost eleventy million dollars at that point, so saving is crucial.

Unknown | 7:20 AM

I have to chime in, tho I'm young and childless. While I think its awesome that a lot of parents are setting aside money for their kids' college - my parents didn't.

I'm 26, and I have student loans that are in MY name and I'm paying back. Throughout my entire childhood I was told my my parents (we grew up rather poor) that if I wanted to go to college, I would need to get a scholarship and/or be prepared to pay for it on my own. I did both. Scholarship for tuition and loans for room and board. Now, it would have been nice for my parents to pay for it - but I valued it more when I knew it was MY money. My roommate used to sleep through classes (she was completely taken care of), she didn't really care about homework. I worry that some kids who are given everything don't value it. I knew it was my $$ when I didn't go - so I went.

All that being said - I want to encourage my child to follow their dreams. So maybe I'll set up just a high interest savings account that isn't college specific, tho I'd like for them to go to college for the educational and social aspect. But I do know I don't plan on giving them that money until after they graduated. They don't really even need to know it exists - let them learn about loans and credit scores and figure things out. Then maybe on their 25th bday I would love to be able to hand them a check or to pay off the loans for them. AFTER they've spent a few years figuring out finances and how to manage on their own. And if they don't go to college? Then that money can be used for a new car or a house or whatever they need it for.

I like the idea of being able to be a safety net for my children, without handing them everything they think they deserve. Or hell, even if they do deserve it. Life lessons are often tough.

Rebecca | 7:38 AM

We started a 529 for each of the kids very shortly after they were born. Sad thing is they each only have about $500 in their account.

If they don't go to college, we are buying a house boat and name it "College Fund"

Brooke Trout | 8:17 AM

My folks have started a 529 for each of their grandkids at birth. I'm hoping that will cover a good chunk of their college eduction.
We also have a savings account going for each of our children to hopefully use on their college and/or graduate education if they need it. If they don't, PARTY PARTY PARTY!
I hope my kids will want to go to college and I hope that they won't necessarily feel pressure to go, but there will be an expectation to go to some kind of extra schooling beyond highschool.
My parents just had the expectation that we would go. Kind of like "you will go to highschool." I didn't really realize it was optional until the end of my senior year. But I also realized the importance of getting a degree and being able to support myself comfortably.
Plus, the college experience was great!

Anonymous | 8:19 AM

My parents were big on the idea of college straight out of high school, which my brother, sister, and I all were not at all big on. My siblings never ended up never going. I went extremely begrudgingly for the first couple of years, but since have come to find a way to kind of make school my own. I recently finished a masters and am applying to PhD programs. When I was finishing high school I was so put off by pressure from my parents, but in hindsight I'm glad I just got started on it, even if it took a little while to build momentum. And job-wise, although my BA in Women's Studies had pretty much no practical application, just having a degree was a requirement to get a foot in the door in public radio, which I did for a few years and was kind of my dream job. So all that to say, we're totally saving for our kids' education and while I don't want to lay on the pressure too thick, I will probably be strongly encouraging. And if they don't end up going and we have money saved that we don't have to use, then I am going on a kick ass vacation, so either way...the savings won't hurt.

Andygirl | 8:38 AM

I'm not a momma yet, but I fully expect to save for my kids' college. Just in case they do go. My parents had no money and I was on my own. I got my AA out of high school, working full time. And finished up when I was 27 all on loans. I think work is important, but I'd like my kids not to graduate with $50 thousand in debt. If they don't want to go to college, that money can be put to some other use.

Eliza | 9:01 AM

I'm coming at this from a very different point than all your other commenters: my kids are 17 and 15. College looms--but there is ZERO college savings.

I did my undergrad right out of high school and am currently in grad school. I'm paying for my degree with student loans. My husband, at 43, is working diligently on getting his associates degree at community college. He gets enough grants and work study to cover all his costs.

Child 1 is looking at a state university. She's also a kick-ass writer who I expect will get a couple of scholarships. We'll help with what money we can, parent loans, etc. She'll also graduate with some debt--something I didn't have.

Child 2 is a high school freshman and not yet sure about his plans. I'd like him to go to college, but I've come to understand that this is not the only path in life. Also, that it doesn't have to happen immediately after high school. So, we'll see.

TexasBobbi | 9:03 AM

I am all for college unlike my husband who has a degree and $40,000 in student loans. I am only a college sophomore but no student loans. I only go when I can pay for it out of my pocket and sometimes only take one class at a time. We don't have anything set up for Ian yet, we are hoping to soon.

Melissa | 9:34 AM

I went to college, but never actually finished and I regret that. I am fine, my life is fine, but I should have finished. I plan to raise my son with the mindframe that college is what you do after high school. Mandatory. He can do what he wants, major in whatever he wants, but these days for real, college is the equivalent of what high school used to mean. I want him to have options, particularly because he is Black so people will always doubt his credentials.

Nikki | 10:13 AM

My husband went to a year of college, but never finished - his skill is in networking and a lot of talent in his chosen career field (audio/sound/music.) He skipped most of his classes that year, had a horrible GPA, but he's now an Audio Director at one of the biggest & most well known companies in the world.

I dropped out of high school my senior year (I just didn't fit in, hated it, and wanted to skip ahead to college.) Well, I mucked about at community college for nearly a decade, STILL don't even have an Associates - but I work in web development & training and the company that I primarily freelance for considers me their best trainer.

My husband worked abroad, in England for 2 years. I took off to live in Prague for 3 years, where I taught English and just had a good time & traveled, when I was 28. Came back at 31, met my husband, had a baby, and now work from home. We bought a gorgeous 5 br house in the Seattle 'burbs, I stay at home with our 5 month old son and we're planning a belated honeymoon to Holland/Iceland this year.

College Shmollege. Honestly, there's been a million articles about how most of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs have been dropouts of some sort.

We're definitely saving up for Nugget's future, but more so than college, we're stressing the importance of traveling and living abroad. We both feel that living abroad is an invaluable experience that we want him to have. LIVING, not just traveling, abroad is where you really learn and gain the best experience. I'd love if he wanted to go to college abroad? But with the money we save, it's really going to be his choice how to use it. I'd rather he live abroad, travel, get some life experience and muck around for most of his 20s. Then if he feels like college later, he'll probably have a better idea of what he wants to do and if money is an issue, he can always afford community college to start. We believe it's who you are, your ethics, and your talent that matter, not what college you go to.

And, quite frankly, my husband & I are happier than most of the people we know. We took a long time to get here, got our wildness out of our systems, did everything we wanted to do. We never wonder "what if" or wish we still had the freedom to run off somewhere, etc.

Hell, I really enjoy coding and web development, but it's not my passion. I didn't really find my passion & figure out what I wanted to do until now, at age 34. (I'll be taking more classes intermittently over the next couple years.) One thing I learned, while living abroad, was that there are some very unique & wonderful traits of being American. I commented on wanting to change careers or not knowing what I really wanted to do, and my (Czech) boyfriend at the time was horrified. "How can you not know what you want to do at age 31?" he asked me. Uh... well, that's what we do in the States! You can change it up any old time, you can take time to figure it out. And I think that's a good thing. I DON'T think it's a good thing that there's so much emphasis on having a degree. People who have 15 years of solid experience in their field get passed up on promotions, jobs etc for much younger people who don't have the experience but have a piece of paper. That's ridiculous.


closetangel - great point. so many kids take for granted college - especially when its paid for. if its coming out of the pockets of the student? partying for four years straight probably isn't going to happen. (there are far cheaper ways to party.)

i think so many parents push their kids into college before their kids are ready and/or have any clue as to what they want to do! i'd much rather mine find themselves, figure out what they want career wise and go from there. College doesn't have to be 13th -16th grade. I love the idea of the walkabout - taking a year off to travel - see the world - find themselves, do some aid work abroad.

I also agree that college as a necessity for success depends on the place. Los Angeles isn't a particularly academic town in terms of its industry (Entertainment). Ours is an industry based on who you know, where you've worked, and what you are willing to do so in a way I'm jaded and completely out of touch with how the rest of the country/world operates.

wonderchris | 10:43 AM

I wholeheartedly agree with you. College isn't right for everyone. The magic piece of paper (diploma) isn't a free pass into doing what you want in life. You have to go and pursue your goals. That may or may not include college. Also, there isn't an age if you really want to get your degree....the door is always open.

Anonymous | 11:01 AM

Setting up my kids' college fund consisted of me moving to, and staying in Sweden for 5 years, thus obtaining citizenship. So now my kids qualify for free university education in Sweden, and reduced university costs if they decide to go anywhere in the EU. Obviously, I hope they pick the Swedish University option ;)

I went back to university at 31, and I am in the YOUMUSTGOTOUNI crowd fo show. But, we are planning on buying the girls RTW plane ticket when they graduate HS so they can take a year off to explore before they head off to uni.

Raychelle | 11:10 AM

I didn't have a choice about going to college...but I wanted to, so it wasn't a problem. I don't have kids yet, but I'll probably start saving once we do have kids. I'd like to have flexibility though (like you) in case they don't want to do the traditional university route.

Interesting article by Seth Godin today that really relates to this topic:

meredyth | 11:15 AM

Ooh! I have SO much to say.
1. My parents didn't push me to go, but I wanted to. After a little time off to figure out what I wanted to do and to live a bit. I took a year and got to travel. I also got to work and saw what life might be like without a degree. By the time I went I think I was (a little) more focused on actually doing well and not just partying.
2. I now teach college (and am about to finish a master's) and I honestly think more kids should take a gap year. I teach kids who either don't want to be there or aren't adult enough to take responsibility for their education. The ones who have come back to school are WAY more enjoyable. I'd encourage your kids to consider a gap year.
3. My dad encouraged me to study whatever I wanted, saying that it's easier if you enjoy it. This is so true, and even though my degree doesn't really lend itself to a specific job I loved the literature I studied and discussed. I'd never change it. Also, any degree helps, really.
4. My boyfriend comes from a family where you went to school when you needed more education for a specific job you had or wanted. Hence, his dad went when he was 37 and my BF hasn't gone yet. I think he's working his way up to wanting to go.
In the end? I'm going to encourage my kids to go to school after a gap year, if they need that time. I would be sad if they didn't because I have seen how hard it can be without one, unless you already have a profession in mind that you're working on. I'm definitely going to require a) college or b) a job. No sitting around on my couch after 18!

Cara | 11:22 AM

I will save. I will set up the expectation through her childhood that you go on to college or specialized training (depending on your career plans) after high school. And if she decides to do something else, I will support her in that goal and there will be no pressure to go to school instead of following her dream. I will be disappointed, though. But, let me be clear, I will be disappointed FOR her, not BY her. Both my husband and I remember college as the time in our life when we had the most fun, reveled in the free time to explore and made the most enduring friendships (ones we each still count among our most important). I'd be sorry for her to miss out on that. Of course, I'd have to remind myself that, if she hated college and really wanted to be somewhere else, she wouldn't be having that experience in the first place.

SoMo | 11:24 AM

At the moment, no. When you are living on 1/5 of what you made only 3 short years ago it changes things a bit.

Right now we are focused on the immediate future which is private school. Basically, we start saving for private school when our children are born. High school is going to break us if business doesn't pick up. Yes, many parents in our area realize that we spend more on elementary and high school than college in some cases. It is just a fact of life living in NOLA.

Each of our children have college funds, but they are just moneymarket accts. I didn't like that the money had to go to college, because, like you, I don't think it is a have to kind of thing. And what happens if your kid doesn't go to college and that money is in an acct that says it can only be used for college? At least, this is how it was explained to us by our CPA and financial adviser, who don't have 529s for their kids' college funds.

Although, we do have a problem of whatever money is in the moneymarket acct when our kids turn 18 yrs old will become theirs. So I will have to change the names before that happens or I will have 3 kids shopping like there is no tomorrow. The other question becomes what will we do with that money if our kids decide not to go to college? Europe vacation for mommy? Maybe. I guess that is better left to answer when we cross that bridge.

meredyth | 11:24 AM

also, I would want to save for their school because I've had friends who worked their way through and although they valued it it was hard on them. However, no money for extras unless they earn it themselves. Party on your own dime. Don't waste my money, but enjoy being young (when you've finished your work).

katie | 11:41 AM

I am like you. I think that it's a case by case basis. And personally, I hope that my son does something fun like music. Nothing involving a cubicle.

Anyway, we are saving with a 529. If he doesn't use it right away, he can always use it later. And if he doesn't use it, his kids can use it.

Molly | 11:54 AM

I think 529s are good ideas because they actively perpetuate the expectation of college, and I think that a kid going through the blah blah of school should be in an environment where college is regularly talked of as the endpoint.

The college expectation is one thing, but being flexible when the child is fully grown and supporting them making their own decisions is another matter. I think we can all agree that college should be expected until the time comes when it's right for it not to be--as a whole, college graduates make more money and have more opportunities than those who don't. I think you are a rare example, and it's important to make room for kids and be supportive of those who will be the rare example too. I definitely believe in listening to your kids.

I think most kids though will not be self-motivated and creative enough at 18 to live up to their potential by bucking a system that generally requires a bachelors, rather than trying to make that system work for them. Saving and talking about college as an expectation helps support them along that way.

Issa | 11:54 AM

Switzerlandish? Dam I love that. i guess that's me too. I have a degree I don't use. Useless. Yet, hey, I still get to pay for it.

Some of my closet friends have great careers and no degree. Some have degrees they don't use, others are actually using them. My mom has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, that she actually uses.

I am saving for college for my kids. But if they decided not too, they can have the money for a down payment on a house at some point. Or something. I don't know, it's just not so cut and dry anymore. It used to be a guarenteed job, now? It's just not.

So meh, Switzerland.

lonek8 | 11:58 AM

my husband and I plan to raise our kids with the expectation that after high school they will attend college. I think treating it as mandatory rather than optional will help them apply themselves to their learning and school careers up to that point. of course, we also know that college is not for everyone, either right away or at all, and so if the need is there we will not push them to attend if they aren't ready or they have a passion that is pulling them in another direction. So in reality we are flexible on the subject - but they don't have to know that, haha!

However we are also miserable savers and have nothing put aside so far so the hole issue could be moot.

Issa | 12:02 PM

Oh I also want to add...there's no way I'd be able to pay for three kids full college tuition's. So in all likely it'd give them a head start.

Unknown | 12:23 PM

Where I come from, college is a must. The people working retail in our local Starbucks and Barnes and Noble all have bachelors or grad degrees. I'm graduating in a week with an undergrad degree and everyone thinks it's shocking that I'm not sticking around for a grad program.

However, I now have about twenty years worth of debt. Still, it was absolutely worth it. Having a particular degree doesn't mean you have to do that specific thing, it just means WAY more doors are open to you, which is nice.

My husband is a physicist and so a degree was a must. His parents covered his costs though, so he's in a nicer position.

We're hoping to pay for our kids college, as I am paying for mine and I'm not feeling that whole "it was totally worth me paying because I appreciate it more" thing. It sucks. I don't want them to have to suffer that.

We're strongly strongly strongly encouraging them to go. I wouldn't mind if they didn't, but my husband would. I think it's a valuable experience, and even if you change majors 18 times, you get the chance to interact with amazing professionals and you get a ton of networking for later.

Anonymous | 12:29 PM

Hmmm, that is a hard one. I think I will leave it up to my child. I want my kid to go to private schools and have the best education possible but I will not push college on my child because I seen that some of the most "accomplished" and financially wealthy people were college drop outs and or never went. I agree that it is a case by case bases and it all depends on what 'field' or career path you want. In some cases a college degree is needed and in others (especially an artistic path of your own) one is not needed. I do not think that education is the be all end all. I think it is also up to the child and as long as the child has had a good education up until the point of graduation, I do not see where it is the end of the world if they want to pursue something that does not need a degree. Look at how successful you are without a degree...but say they want to be a doctor or an actor, sometimes it is needed. It is really a case by case bases. Sorry for repeating myself in there at times.

On another note - can you check out this drawing my friend did. She is trying to raise money and the more people that are out there and see it maybe someone will buy it. It is awesome - I have seen it in person!

Ashley Parker, 2008 Class Reporter | 1:04 PM

My boyfriend and I have had several hypothetical conversations. Like Maggie in the video commented, the boy comes from a tech field and did not need a degree to walk into a job that pays him a VERY livable wage from day 1 and so he dropped out of college after only a year. He's thinking of getting his BA, but only for formalities, because (and this is where my opinion that college is a MUST comes from), I think in this age it is expected that you will at least have a Bachelor's and it would only potentially hinder you not to have one. I think though, that given the changes in the economy, the lack of capacity for many "middle-class" or middle-earning families to afford college for their kids, that this may change. It was never an option, to me, although I don't recall my parents saying "YOU MUST!", to not go to college, and it was the single-most life changing experience I have had to date and worth every penny (although I'll be paying those pennies back for quite some time...I went to a private women's college and came from a so-called middle class family who could not afford to pay the full cost yet made too much to get a whole lot of need-based aid). I think that your route of encouraging but not forcing- it's clear from the comments and the other Momversation participants views that every situation is unique and you just have to go with that!

Anonymous | 1:52 PM

We have a 529 set up for each of our kids. My husband and I both have college and advanced degrees by very different means. My parents didn't save anything for college so I took out student loans got a great job after school and my employer paid for me to get an MBA. My husband's parents paid for college (state), a Masters, and a law degree. We both have great jobs and enough money to put some away so that are kids can follow their dreams - I don't want them to begin their careers already in debt. I won't force them to study a certain thing nor would I force them to go right after high school graduation, but I would want them to have a plan for supporting themselves and anything I can do to give them a good start, I'd like to do it!

Nicole | 2:12 PM

This topic really hit close to home for me today (I'm a first-time commenter). I'm an adjunct professor at a big university and I'm in the process of grading my students' final work right now. Although I'm a big proponent of college (duh), I see so many teenagers and young people pretty much wasting their time and money because they're not motivated to be in college. Don't get me wrong, I think college/university life is a valuable experience for so many other reasons than academics, but I shudder at the idea of parents spending their life savings on college tuition if their children aren't motivated to do the work. A lot of students seem to be in college because they think a degree will magically result in a high-paying job or they're NOT interested in working just yet. My feeling is, yes, encourage your children to go to college but maybe look more closely at community or junior colleges if they're indecisive. Working full-time for a year after high school could also give them added motivation to find a career that's right for them.

robin | 2:18 PM

hmmm. I think that college can be a good thing, for sure. It can also be a not so good thing. Depends on who you are, I think. And sometimes it depends on how or why you got there. I was NOT pushed to college. I was not encouraged to go. If anything, I was discouraged. No one in my family had gone beyond a semester of community college. My older sister hadn't even made it through high school. I knew it cost money-hell, it was $50 just to apply for one school! I knew we didn't have money. Scholarships seemed to be made for completely obscure people (like, you are the 2nd generation Italian daughter of a Sicilian pasta maker), and I kinda just hit a wall. My only option seemed to be the JC, which I DID NOT want to attend. So I did other things for a while, always knowing that I'd find a way. While I wish my parents would have been more encouraging (at least making me feel they believed I was capable), I am grateful that I wasn't one of those kids whose parents paid their way. I did so many things I never would have done. Met people I would never have met. Had experiences beyond keggers in the dorm room. And I did find a way, and now have a master's degree (that cant seem to get me a job, BTW). I appreciated every class much more than I would have if it had been expected of me. But part of me does feel a bit gypped. Those dorm room keggers might have been fun!
SO....for my kids? I will encourage them to get out, see the world, explore, travel. If that includes living in a dorm in a college campus somewhere, great-I know they will surely be smart enough! If they wander a bit and then find their way back, great! The only thing that won't be an option is living on the couch playing video games with pot smoke billowing around them!

thedalyn | 2:46 PM

As a college professor myself, the owner of a lot of college debt, and the only person in my family to get a degree higher than an AA, I am not putting money away for my child's education. I personally believe that it's their responsibility. I've been teaching college freshman every year for 8 years, I can't even tell you how many drop out and waste 15-20k dollars and tarnish what should be a wonderful experience to learn and grow. But that's the nature of being an 18 year old isn't it? Some kids just aren't ready straight out of high school. I know I wasn't.

However, assuming mine do want to go, I first plan to encourage my kids to seek out and apply for every single scholarship and work study that's available to them. And, believe me, there are a ton--enough to pay for school. Many don't even get applicants and are canceled (which happened to my daughter recently when she entered an essay contest for college money and was the only one). The advantage of this is threefold: 1) free money; 2) it gives them a stake in their own education--making them work for it; and 3) it shows me that they're committed to getting a college education. If and when they exhaust all of their resources resources, THEN I will certainly pitch in to help financially in what ever way I can.

I agree with you, Rebecca, college isn't for everyone and plenty of people succeed without it. I also think, because college kids are adults and this is an investment in they make for their future (I can't go to school for them), they should be responsible for it. It's really as simple as that for me.

Mrs. Q. | 3:57 PM

I absolutely-tootley want/expect my kids to go to college... or trade school or juco or beauty school. I think a secondary education is very important to help kids decide on and prepare for their future trades. Especially since many primary schools have to do more with less, I hope a secondary education will help them find their way.

But as the kids grow, we may find they are suited for something else, and we hope to support that choice.

My parents worked and saved like fiends so my sister and I could go to school. My sister chose an expensive, beautiful catholic college and had years of loans to repay. I chose a small state college and got out scott free. Our experiences were very different, but equally memorable, wonderful, fulfilling and set us on career paths we enjoyed (even if we are both stay at home moms now!)

My husband and I have automatic monthly contributions set for both kids' 529s. We hope that will build a decent egg and that we won't have to eat cat food when they get to school, but who knows? If it becomes a financial burden, our financial advisor said to choose our own 401k and retirement plan first, as you can always get a loan for college. You can't get a loan to retire.

Kristy | 6:54 PM

As the mother of a 17 year old....let me just say this. Save money for college..for "the first apartment" for "trade school" for your children's "future"..even maybe help with the "first car" but do NOT save your money in a fund that can ONLY be used for college. And be very careful about where and how you save it because some college fund savings can only be used at "state" schools rather than for profit universities and your kid may not be able to attend a community college or state school because he or she may not be smart enough. My kid doesn't want to go to college..good thing he has savings not "college bound" only savings. I don't believe in forcing a kid to go to college if he or she does not want to go...big waste of time and money. You cannot forsee your children's future desires..plan accordingly by saving MONEY in a way in which it can be used wisely when the choices are being made someday.

Your children's future lives...they already belong to them..for them to decide.

Anonymous | 12:20 AM

Hey! Just wanted to let you know I gave you an award over on my blog! :)

MommyLisa | 8:43 AM


Sorry, I am with Hal on this one.

I got passed over for a job IN SALES because I did not have my bachelors. The manager LOVED me and wanted me and her boss VETOED me because "no degree."

KelseyFH | 8:53 PM

I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog. Your stories resonate so strongly and sometimes leave me in tears, but I have so much respect for what you have done and how you are raising your children.

I'm a former homeschooled student, currently a third-year college student studying abroad in New Zealand. I 'graduated' from high school very early and took a gap year before starting at a private liberal arts college on the East Coast, and that year for me made all the difference. I was so burned out on school before that year that I was convinced I never wanted to go to college; my parents made me apply and a year later, I was incredibly grateful. I love my school and I love college, but three years in, I am reaching the burnout point again. My mom and I have discussed taking a year off, and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do when I return to the States in the fall. However, the fact that my parents had college funds for my siblings and I made all of that possible, and I am grateful for that too.

So here's my thoughts from the 'kid' side of things... an education is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your child. But equally important is listening to your child's needs in that education. College gave me the freedom to understand who I was and the courage to go after the crazy things -- because walking on stilts is more fun than any party I've ever been to, and learning to spin fire staff gives me more satisfaction than good grades. Hear what your children are trying to tell you, and try to understand it, whether it's "I want to be a lawyer," or "I want to run away and join the circus." Don’t laugh at our silly ideas for the future, because we might be serious, and children’s hearts are fragile. Your kids will want your perspective and your insight, because as their parents, your and Hal’s opinions will matter more almost more than their own. Give them options and encouragement, and then let them find their own way out into the world.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama | 1:53 PM

I loved college, but I did not go right after H.S. I waited a couple of years and went for myself instead of doing it "because I was supposed to".

That said, I think it's very important. Maybe not for the individual's growth or own real education, but because it's a piece of paper that says you've finished something. By the time my daughter is old enough to enter the real world, it will most likely be mandatory to at least have a 2 year degree for most jobs. The same way H.S. is now.

I hope to teach my daughter to love learning, but it's up to her to make up her own mind in the end. I won't force college because she will get nothing from it if she's only doing it to please me.

All that, we haven't started saving yet. I'm torn about it. My parents didn't save shit for me. I took out loans. I don't feel like it's a bad thing to pay for your own education. They helped me with other expenses during my college years, so it's not like they left me high and dry, it's just that my tuition was not something paid for by them.

I was a bit older though, and went to community college for an A.A., which was considerably cheaper. Then went on to a regular 4 year uni after I was 23 and only needed my own (nonexistent) income counted against me for financial aid. WOOT. Basically went for free and only took loans out to live.

Peter has been researching savings plans since he had help from his parents and thinks we should help Alexa. There is another plan that looks good to us (CESA - that can also be used for random educational expenses K-12 and then for tuition for private H.S. and of course college).

Brooke - Little Miss Moi | 1:56 AM

Hmm, I'm a bit blase about saving for university. In Australia, uni degrees are highly subsidised and, even the part that the student pays for, is paid on a low interest loan from the Government and paid back through a slightly higher tax rate until it's paid off. I'm paying off my bill, but I never notice the money is missing from my pay cheque - it's just 'tax'. I pay off about $3000 per year. I should be paid off in the next couple of years.

Also, there is more emphasis on specialised degrees in Australia, and less emphasis on post grad studies. I did a Bachelor of Business and a bachelor of Arts, and both were heavily skills based and spat me out the other end with skills and experience specialised for journalism and PR. It's really common for people here to do an undergraduate degree in Law, and become a lawyer within about 5 or 6 years from leaving high school.

Having these skills-based courses really saves a lot of money seeing as we don't so much go to 'business school' or 'law school' etc. (and if we did, many of those courses are still subsidised!)

Brooke - Little Miss Moi | 2:04 AM

Oh but I guess I should finish my comment.

I don't care whether my kid(s?) go to college or not, but they'll have a year or two to muck around, and then they have to get themselves trained. In something. Anything. They can go to uni or do a trade or go to tech school, but I want them to know something well enough that they can fall back on it if everything else in their life falls through or falls apart.

And that pretty much sums up my philosophy.

Kendra | 1:29 PM

I have 2-529's in place for my 2 boys. *IF* they want to go to's there for their use. If not, the money is still mine and hubs and I will visit Tahiti....:)

wm | 8:44 AM

Yes, we’re saving, as much as possible as early as possible. One, because the benefit comes from long-term growth. Two, because we figure it’s easier to save now when he’s too young to ask for things than it will be when he’s begging for all kinds of stuff.

And yes, we expect him to go to college. If he doesn’t, fine. Everyone needs to pursue their own path. But the reason for him not going will not be because we aren’t financially prepared. The money can always be used for something else.

Inner Bitter | 7:40 AM

belated comment but oh well :) I will not be saving for my children's college, if they want to go they can work at scholarships or fund it themselves I think that makes them "own" it more and then have more drive to do well and choose wisely. However I agree that not everyone is college material and if my kids come to me someday and say hey I just want to be a waitress in Europe or whatever wild dream they have I will be rooting for them on the sidelines, afterall you can always go back to school but you can't get the days gone bye wasted on something you hated back.