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Containing the High Cost of College


To matriculate is to enroll in something, usually a college or university. Your child is matriculating into college. You, at this time, are matriculating into a new group, too—the elite group of mothers-of-adult-children.

Womanly Wisdom

The sooner you start saving for your child's college education, the better—colleges cost…a lot. If you can, set aside a little each month while your kids are still small. Properly invested, that little bit will grow into a hefty sum, and you'll have a good head start on covering tuition costs.

When your child approaches college age you need to start thinking about a lot of things. Close to the top of the list is the very real issue of how you are going to pay for it. If you do not already have a plan in place you need to come up with one, fast—especially if your child has unrealistic expectations and no chance for a scholarship. College today is very expensive, and middle-income families have few options for financial aid, unless your child can qualify for an academic scholarship.

Considering Your Child's Contribution

You need to think about how much you want your child to contribute to the financial aspects of her education. If you are going to handle the whole tuition cost, make sure that you nonetheless provide parameters that will eventually help your child achieve financial independence. One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is to do everything for a child, and then throw her out of the nest without any experience of financial responsibility. That is a sure way to maintain a dependent child for a lot longer than you would ever expect. You need to start treating your college-age child as a maturing young adult, even if you are going to take care of most of her needs during school.

Should Your Child Get a Job?

There are many compelling reasons for not expecting a child to pay for school or hold a job during college. An education has value, and some children are unable to balance schoolwork and employment. You do not want to diminish your child's ability to concentrate on learning. Colleges typically assume that students concentrate most, if not all, their energies on their class work and on building a rewarding extracurricular life.

Mom Alert!

Summer and seasonal jobs are hard to come by—unless your child plans ahead. If he or she doesn't look for a summer job until vacation has actually begun, your child may find that all the good or interesting ones are already taken. Spring break is a good time for your child to start scouting around for a summer job.

On the other hand, all schools assume that there will be some student contribution to tuition costs. This contribution is usually assumed to come from seasonal and summer employment. This is not a bad thing: You definitely want your children to understand how much work goes into earning a dollar. And you want to give them an object lesson that they do not want to be limited to the types of jobs available to people without an education.

Keep in mind that many children do succeed in putting themselves through college. Juggling work and school is highly stressful, but it builds character. There is a downside to this, however: Some children who carry too heavy a burden of responsibility at too young an age may later need to cut loose to make up for the fun they think they might have missed.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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