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We Paid Cash: Our daughter’s first two years of college

We paid cash!

A testimony by Julie from The Family CEO

Exactly one year ago, our oldest child headed off to college. We knew this day was coming, but as with everything to do with kids, time goes much more quickly than you expect. We needed a plan for paying for our daughter’s education, keeping in mind her brother would follow her in four years.

Here were the facts:

  • We had some money saved, but not a lot.
  • What we had saved had been cut in half by the stock market crash.
  • We didn’t want our daughter – or us – to have to borrow money.

Kind of tall order, huh?

Still, we were able to pay cash for her first year of college, and the money is in the bank for her second year, which she just started. We’re halfway there and the plan is to stay one step ahead of her college expenses, paying as we go.

Here are the things that have helped us accomplish that so far:

Choosing an in-state school

We looked at quite a few schools, both public and private. In the end, our daughter chose an in-state school, in no small part because of the affordability. Not only was the tuition reasonable, the school had a four-year tuition compact, meaning it wouldn’t go up during that time.


We’re blessed that our daughter is a strong student, and was a very involved in high school activities. That translated into scholarships and subtracting scholarships from an already reasonable tuition bill made that part of the college costs much more manageable.

Starting a new stream of income

Several years before she left for school, I started my blog and also started doing some other writing online. This resulted in a small income stream that I put into an online savings account, earmarked for college. When the time came, I was able to pay for her laptop, books, the balance of her tuition, and a big part of her room and board out of that account.

Part-time jobs

Our daughter worked during summers and over school breaks, and all of that money went into her savings account. She used that for spending money while at school. As she heads off to school this fall, she is applying for part-time campus jobs, which will cushion her bank account that much more.

Community college classes

Our daughter’s high school offered classes she could take for college credit. We still had to pay for them, but at much lower, community college rates. Ultimately, she was able to enter college with 18 credits – an entire semester’s worth. That should help her graduate on time, which will be the biggest money-saver of all.

So that’s where we are. Two years in and we’ve been able to pay as we go with cash so far. With some perseverance and a little good fortune, we should be able to make it the rest of the way as well.

In 2006, Julie hired herself to save her family money, make some extra money, and pay down debt, all while living a fulfilling life. She blogs about her experiences at The Family CEO.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  • Sakura says:

    My daughter started college a year ago at the community college and we had enough for the first semester saved. We save each month for the next semester. She has some skin in the game by contributing what she can to the college fund, usually $100 to $200 a month. We just paid for fall semester in full with books and kits yesterday. Now we are onto saving for spring. For my boys who have 3 to 10 years before they hit college we save a little each month in their savings account.

    I’m reading the Total Money Makeover right now, so we are still in the process of paying off consumer debt first. I felt school was important enough to pay in cash to help keep my daughter out of debt when she graduates.

  • sharon says:

    I have paid for all of our son’s tuition so far by being blessed with “teacher’s children” while the Mom’s work. I am on the 2nd group as their older ones have all started Preschool. I am thankful for these 3 babies that will help our son graduate with no loans…

  • Colleen says:

    I just graduated from college in December and my parents essentially had the same situation. I, on the other hand, was not as cooperative and felt that the $10k a year scholarship to the private school of my choice was a huge help (haha!). My parents still managed to pay for the first year and a half in cash. Watching how hard they worked to pay for my education (and the arrival of my husband in my life) convinced me to switch to the local community college. They managed to pay for the next 2 years with what they had saved up for the second semester of my sophomore year! AND a wedding in the middle of it all. I’m so grateful for my family’s commitment to send me out into the “real world” without any debt AND that their hard work ethic and perseverance finally came through to me so I could start being more appreciative of them.

    • Susan says:

      Colleen, good for you. I wish all young adults could learn this lesson while they are still young.

    • Colleen, your experience sounds much like our own. A lot of private schools have a high sticker price and give almost everyone a significant amount of “aid” to bring it down. It sounds like such a good deal until you look at the bottom line and realize how much you’re still paying.

      You sound like a smart, wonderful, appreciative daughter. Congrats on your marriage!

  • Our oldest son is a homeschooled high school senior and is taking a couple of classes at the local community college for high school and college credit. We’ve been able to pay for his classes and books with cash and he received some financial aid that this just for dual credit students. We also bought his textbooks online instead of at the college book store, that alone saved us about $100.

  • Kabe says:

    Great advice all around, although I would note that you shouldn’t look ONLY at public in-state schools; I live in NJ and because of the scholarships I received from my private university (one of the most expensive in the state and actually in the country as well), I paid less to go to my private university than it would have cost me as an in-state resident at Rutgers. The exact same scenario applied to the master’s program I enrolled in this year (at the same school, actually). While private schools have a much higher sticker price, it’s still worth looking at them – because they have much higher endowments/more private revenue sources they can often give much more substantial aid packages to qualified freshman and thus can be comparable or more affordable than state schools.

    • Adrienne says:

      I also had this experience. I lived in Illinois but Murray State University in Kentucky offered in-state tuition to certain counties in Illinois, which was cheaper than all of the Illinois public universities that I looked into.

    • Good points, Kabe. She actually applied at several private school and — with the exception of one — the in state after scholarships was much cheaper than the private after scholarships.

      I hear you, though. And we were lucky that she really liked our in state school and it is strong in her major. That’s not always the case.

      Thanks for your adding your thoughts to the conversation.

    • I completely agree! I went to a private school in Ohio (Wittenberg University), and had about a half tuition scholarship–which is less than what I would have paid at an in-state school. To be completely truthful, my mom is a professor at a Purdue University in Indiana so I could have paid even less, but all in all the private school was much better all around, especially because my school has a 4 year graduation guarantee. So that was much cheaper than staying 5 years at a public school… all being said–check your options (which it seems this poster did), because there are other benefits of smaller schools even if the sticker price is higher.

      • Sarah, you’re right. There are lots of factors to consider. And there are other things to weigh besides cost.

        Kind of like your Purdue example, my daughter actually received a full tuition, room and board scholarship to a smaller, private school in the Midwest. It would have made her college bill much, much lower. But the school wasn’t a good fit for her, so even though the $$ was hard to pass up, we did.

        Sounds like you had a great experience. Thanks for sharing it.

      • Stacy says:

        Um, you went to my alma mater!

        Another good option for paying for school is to see if the school has a monthly payment option. My parents did this paying for my school and we did it paying for my husband’s school. Instead of paying the tuition bill up front at the beginning of the semester they broke the amount into monthly payments (no interest).

  • Marlana says:

    VERY much how I got my college degree. I still would not do it again (never going to use the degree); however, no doubt, and I did it while very young, so its all worked out well. Congrats, you guys!

  • Jean says:

    I’m guessing she went to KU?? 🙂 ROCK Chalk, my friend! 🙂 Good for you… a fantastic example to your daughter (and son)!!

  • Kandy Chimento says:

    I just have one problem with your story. KU?? WHY??
    (Just kidding! – I’m from Texas!) 🙂

  • Sakura, you’re doing exactly what we’re doing…staying one step (or semester) ahead of the game. Good luck to your daughter!

  • jen says:

    buying used books saves a ton too, and you can sell them back if its a book you don’t plan to keep. Some places are even starting to rent the books. Some of my books were $400 plus and I was able to get them for $60 used.

  • Becky says:

    Rock Chalk Jayhawks! Good for her!

  • Julie,
    This is so wonderful. My husband and I both had large student loans for years. We vowed to not do that to our children, now 15, 13, 10 and 4. But the same stock market that affected your funds affected ours as well.
    Our high school has dual enrollment as well but we won’t have to pay for the class. I have heard of some students finishing with high school with their AA. I want to celebrate for them and say, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE SAVED???”

    I can’t wait to go read your blog. It is refreshing to hear from someone with older children. One piece of advice I have for families with younger children is those “upper childhood years” go by SO much faster than the early ones. Plan, plan, plan.

    • Kim, thanks for your nice comment. Your advice is right on.

      I have heard of others that took community college classes in high school for free. That’s wonderful.

      Here’s hoping the stock market comes back around to help us all out, but it doesn’t look too promising at the moment.

  • Mary says:

    Much of the same ideas mentioned above, but we have also done some CLEP, saving time and money prior to college as part of our homeschool. Have done some dual credit as well. It has been only this last year of nursing school that we have had to ask for a small loan, but when my daughter presented estimated expenses on a spreadsheet to the financial aide counselor, grant money was found. There is nothing like face to face and having your ducks in a row when you go speak to financial aide.

  • Christine Lentine says:

    My daughter attends our local Middle college program…That is where they can attend their jr. and sr. year of highschool and at the same time take college classes. She is a senior this year. Next year when she graduates she will have also one full year of college credits behind her at no cost to us or her. She wants to become a doctor and has many more years of school ahead of her and this program has already helped her tremendously.

  • Jennifer says:

    This is awesome.

    I just wanted to throw out another thing that is often overlooked: staying home and going to community college for two years, then transferring.

    Huge money saver as tuition is often less and you don’t have to pay for room and board at a college.

    • So true, Jennifer. Community colleges are much, much less expensive than even in state, 4 year schools. And ours does a great job working with students to make sure their credits will transfer.

      This is an especially good plan if you’re unsure about your major or even about college altogether.

  • Katy says:

    The smartest part of this plan was to have your kids 4 years apart! We will get our first dd through 3 years then the next one will start. We will then possibly have 3 in college at once. With 4 girls there is also potential for a wedding during that time. Big financial ouch!

  • Sharon, I’ve tried three times to reply directly to your post and it won’t work, so I’ll do it here:

    What a wonderful plan. You’re doing something I’m passionate about: giving a stream of income (in your case childcare) a job to do (paying for college). You probably have your summers off too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katy, ouch is right. All of this seemed so far away when we were having our babies, didn’t it? Hopefully you have some time to prepare.

  • Sarah in Alaska says:

    Don’t discount AP or IB classes if your high school offers them. Your children can start earning college credit as early as the 9th grade. You can easily knock off a semester of college this way. The fee for these tests is only $87, and you can get 6 – 8 credits for passing the tests (depending on what the university accepts).

  • Caitlin says:

    I’d like to add that buying books from Amazon or eBay and NOT the school’s bookstore saves money BIG TIME. I am in college now and will be starting grad school in the very near future. I estimate that simply buying my books online rather than through the book store will save me over $6000 when it’s all said and done!

  • Melissa D says:

    Keep watching for scholarship opportunities that come up as your daughter progresses through school. By the time I reached my 4th year at KU, I had several scholarships that covered my tuition and most of my living expenses.

    I just finished my Masters Degree at the university where I now work. They paid 75% percent of my tuition while I paid 25% plus my books and fees. Since I was going to school part-time that amounted to $700 per semester. It took 3 years to finish, but I was able to pay cash as I went!!

  • a says:

    Please, Please, Please remember this one: Once you get on campus, make yourself familiar with the Financial Aid office. I received more scholarships my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of college than I did as a Freshman, due to my persistant (but professional) nature with that office. There are often scholarships that only Sophomores qualify for; or 3rd year Nursing majors, etc. etc.

    It is an ongoing process, and takes time, but staying abreast of all financial options all 4 years can save you thousands!

  • Chelsea says:

    What a blessing it must have been to your daughter for you and your husband to make the sacrifices necessary to send her to college. I’m guessing she went to KU? Hope she has a blast at college!

  • Marie says:

    Wow! That is so wonderful! Not only is she getting an education from her classes, but from her parents. Congratulations to you and to her and best of luck with paying cash for the other years!

  • Marisa says:

    That’s wonderful to give your daughter such a great start financially! One thing that really helped me was to take AP classes in high school. It may not be an option for all, but if you take the AP test and pass it, you get credit for college. They are free because they are high school classes, unlike the community college ones. I earned 18 credits from my AP classes and was able to get credit for about 3 of the general college classes.

    One idea for a job during college is to look into being a resident assistant in the dorms. I was an RA my sophomore year and I received free room and board, as well as a $90/mo. stipend. It really helped cut costs that year!

    Also, a lot of people mentioned buying books used online. We do that now for my husband’s medical school education. What we also do is sell the books online when he’s done with them. It’s not a lot, but at least something to help cut costs.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Marisa, we really missed the boat on the AP exams. She took quite a few AP classes, but we had her do them as college credit through the community college instead of taking the AP exams and earning credit that way. Your way is cheaper by far. I’m not sure what we were thinking.

  • Heather says:

    I got better grades the years when I had a part-time job than when I didn’t. I worked for the school’s landscaping department, and the physical nature of the job helped me settle down to study better. Also, unless rules have changed, if you work part-time on campus while taking enough credits, you don’t pay FICA, which is good bit of change!

    • Heather, my daughter just accepted a campus job today. I’m going to have to have her check into the FICA thing. Thanks for the heads up.

      I agree with you that having more to do can make you more effective than having less to do.

  • I think this is great advice! My kids are still young; but it never hurts to start preparing now. Thanks for all the great tips.

    And by the way, Go KU!

  • Very inspiring. I just put up on my vision board (my son is nearing 16 *months* old) this quote from designer Peter Walsh: “Neither of my parents finished eighth grade, and yet, amazingly…they managed to put the seven of us through college.” aMAzing.

  • Tammy says:

    We have been paying cash for our daughter’s community college also.Half priced books or renting has helped with book costs. She has to help pay for gas to get to and from school-also her lunch in between classes.

  • chelsea says:

    18 credits! That is awesome! I think you pretty much saved a semester’s-worth of tuition right there. Kudos to your daughter for saving her money from part-time jobs to put towards her college education.

  • Maria says:

    Julie, congrats on this awesome accomplishment! My parents were adamant about me trying for all possible scholarships, and it really pays off! I went to school with tuition paid, and they paid my books and room and board. I walked away with no debt, though we’re still paying my husband’s off! I’ll definitely be heading over to your blog! Thanks for sharing and for teaching your kids valuable lessons in the process!

  • Debbie says:

    I personally find it ridiculous how people go to great ends to pay for their child’s education. Why not have the child take out loans, work hard (part time jobs in the summer do not count), and figure it out!? My parents did not give me a single dollar for my education, as much as I wished they would have. However, I found that I appreciate my college education and worked much harder in college then the people whose Mommy and Daddy were paying for every single thing.

    • Joanne says:

      This one is hard. I see where you are coming from TOTALLY. My husband had NO help at all from his parents and worked his way through the University of Arizona here in the late 80’s. At that time he is telling me is cost like $500 a semester. I now have TWO kids going there and it is $4,500 a semester of basically 9K a YEAR. My son has 30K in scholarships this year, the daughter who went to community college for the first two years and is also working has None. We are paying for her tuition, but she must keep great grades.
      She has worked in fast food for three years and is pretty responsible. We are keeping her working because she can’t stand it and we want her to see that there is something that will get her out of that job she hates. That will be her degree hopefully one day. My husband also thinks they should pay their way through college but knows how much stress that is. When he was working full time and going to school full time he had no life, got C’s and was very run down. We are just trying to help out kids out and we are paying full price and not taking any handouts for our oldest. You just have to do what is right for your family. It is working for us so that is what matters…
      There is no way she could pay for school at 9K a year and still keep her grades up while working say full time. Since we have the money to help her, we talk with her about how the grades need to be good and she still needs to be responsible.

      • Joanne, I went to school in the mid-to-late 80s and I remember my tuition being similar to your husband’s. My husband also worked to put himself through school in that same time period.

        You’re right when you point out that it’s much harder for a kid today to put themselves completely through school with no debt. It can be done, I’m sure, but it’s not as easy as it was when we were in school. Costs have risen so quickly.

        Congrats on finding a plan that works for your family.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think there is value in what you’ve said. However, there is a lot of value in a more expensive education than a young person can reasonable undertake with debt. I wouldn’t trade my 4 years at a small, private liberal arts college for the world, and there is no way I could afford the (now $43k/year) that costs. I did pay more than half through scholarships, and worked for all my spending money. But my grandparents gave my folks $5000 when I was born (a LONG time ago, lol) and told them they had 18 years to turn it into college. And they did. I paid for both my Master’s and Doctorate, and I could have gone to the state school at home for free. But those four years to immerse myself in my studies, go live abroad, and learn to be my own person in a totally different place where I could do newspaper and yearbook and campus ministry and have (lots of) fun in a sheltered environment were an enormous blessing. When my son was born we put an equivalent amount of money in his account, and I hope we can turn it into enough to give him whatever kind of post-secondary experience he wants. There’s a lot to be said for “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” but there’s a lot to be said for being given more than you can get for yourself, too. It all depends on the family and the kid, but, for me, I am so grateful that my parents gave me more than they had had themselves. I hope to do as well for mine, and, if we can’t, I know that he’ll be able to be proud of doing it on his own if he must.

      • Elizabeth, sounds like you had an amazing experience and the “experience” of college can be worth just as much as the education, in my opinion. I’m glad your parents valued it enough to give it to you and how wonderful that you want to pass the gift onto your son.

    • Lori says:

      Starting my married life with $40k in combined student loans was enough to make me want to give my children better. I worked hard for good grades because I knew it was expected, not because of who paid for it. Education is a parent’s responsibility, why would that end because your child turns 18?? My parents did their best, but still left us with a chunk of loans, and my husband’s parents gave him nothing. We’ve been married 13 years and are still struggling to pay off school. Did my husband work harder than me because he had to pay his own way? Not a chance, if anything he did less because he had less time for studying, and felt that his job needed to come first! I’m sure that kids whose parents put this much effort into paying for their college education know exactly how hard it is and appreciate it, too! Don’t be hard on people who want their kids to have a better start!

    • Tiffany says:

      I completely agree with you. I hardly had help from my parents. Had to take out loans and financial aid, and grants. I think its nice to have parents help, but they shouldn’t be made to feel like they have to do so.

    • Eli says:

      Debbie, I think your post is a bit ridiculous in itself. There is no guarantee that just because you paid your way means the student will appreciate a college education more. My parents paid my tuition 100%, I appreciated it 100%. I knew many people whose parents paid their tuition 100% and theyappreciated it 100% ad went on to do greate things with their degrees.

      • Julie Huey says:

        Everyone is different. I was young and naive back in my college days. When I got into a top university (top 10% of the people in the country), I got homesick and blamed my mom for wanting me to go there. Now, I appreciate what she had done for me. My parents paid for my tuition back then, but I didn’t appreciate it either. Now that I have my own kids, I truly appreciate what they did for me.

  • Kristi says:

    I completely agree!! My parents didn’t have any money to contribute, but I made it through my undergrad (we won’t talk about my grad schooling though:) without any loans because of this same thing. I chose an in-state school, worked part time throughout my degree to pay for my month to month expenses, and went home for the summer to work full-time to pay for my tuition. I did get scholarships, but wanted to echo something written in another comment. The college I got into was fairly competitive and though I had good grades and a pretty good ACT score, it wasn’t enough for a scholarship through them. But I did a lot of looking around and applied for a lot of other scholarships and because of my good grades and extracurricular activities, got quite a few little ones that all together paid for nearly half of my tuition my freshman year. Then, what I wanted to pass along is that I worked so hard in college, that I ended up getting a half tuition scholarship for the rest of my time there. Most of the people that got scholarships as freshman lost them because they didn’t work to get good grades in college. So, it does pay to work hard and apply for any scholarships from the college, even after you are a freshman!

  • Sara says:

    You are better off going to a 4-year University and having loans than taking courses at a community college. Students coming in from a CC realllllly struggle.

    • Debbie says:

      I totally disagree with you since I know of many students who have gone to a 4 year college and ended up withdrawing, because they lack the maturity and time management skills.

      • NicoleI to says:

        I have never heard of that! I went to a CC and have had no problem whatsoever. I am back at a university now working on my masters. Please have some facts instead of just spewing your own personal opinion or experiences.

        • Joanne says:

          Community college here is 2K a year or so. State univeristy is 9K a year. Daughter saved 14K going for two years and she is fine with it. You have to do what you have to do. Period!!! To each his own!!! lol
          I have heard people bad mouth the community college but why would she want to take on 14K in debt that there is no reason to take on???
          As far as time management and maturity she has worked three years at a sub shop here and she is 20. We are very proud of her.

        • Janelle says:

          I think it depends SO much on the community college! Some are absolutely wonderful, challenging academically, and just generally strong schools. But others are less academic, and are better as places to get certificates (in automotive repair, for example) or to take remedial courses.

          There are pros and cons of both paths. The key is knowing yourself/your child as well as the particular community college in your area. If they’re a match, wonderful! If not, don’t feel bad about spending more money for the education that matches your needs.

    • Lynne says:

      I don’t think it is a good idea to generalize that ALL community college students will struggle. Some will, of course, but so will some students at a 4-year college. I think it is unfair to discount all community colleges because some students aren’t successful. Community colleges are a great resource. There are some CCs that have bridge programs to 4-year institutions. For example, at my CC, students can take 3 years’ worth of classes at the CC and then their last year at the partner 4-year school. Essentially, they are getting 3 years’ worth of education at CC tuition rates, and still get their Bachelor’s degree from a 4-year institution!

    • Stephanie says:

      So not true- I did 2 years at CC and then was accepted to several of the best liberal arts schools in the country.

  • Debbie says:

    My son began college in the fall of 2008 and has another year and half to go to complete his undergraduate degree. I am also proud to say that we have paid cash for his college tuition and with God’s help, we are hoping that he will not incur any debt for college. He started at a community college and is now at a state university. He commutes to school and pays for his parking permit ($300) a year and his textbooks utilizing the money he earns working part-time. My son realizes that he is very lucky to have our help and he reciprocates his appreciation by getting good grades. He’ll finish just in time for us to do the same for his brother who will be a senior is high school this coming school year. : )

  • Laura says:

    Great post! While college debt and loans are not new, the economy has significantly changed. A college grad will likely have difficulty finding a job, especially a good one. Debt now can be more than $50,ooo (average for a four year degree at a private college with financial aid). That is crazy. I am curious about the writing you mentioned to supplement your income. One tip, while colleges are fine with the idea of undecided majors, waiting too long can result in additional semesters and cost. Best!

  • Melanie says:

    What a wonderful inspiration! My daughter is 6 and this gives me some great ideas on what to start doing now. Thank you for that.

  • Joan Vasquez says:

    Don’t have time to read all of the comments, but here is the least expensive option we have found: 🙂 They can even start getting dual credit (high school/college) at age 14 using this program!

  • Chris says:

    My son went to the local community college and between financial aid and scholarships he had both years tuition, books, and supplies completely covered. My daughter just started college and decided she wanted a four year education (wants to be a nurse). We told her that was fine but she would have to do her part to pay for it. She filled out every scholarship app that she could find and has accumulated enough in financial aid and scholarships to pay for the first full year and part of the second. She is still filling out scholarship apps and hoping to get more for future years. She said some of them were a real pain but was well worth it in the end. She is attending an out of state college but with reciprocity, the tuition is actually cheaper than if she was attending school in our home state. My mother in law couldn’t comprehend how someone could graduate from college with no student loans…we are going to prove to her that it is possible.

    • Chris, kudos to your daughter for being so determined. I know some kids approach scholarship applications as if they’re a job, and it sounds like she’s one. So admirable.

      I’m surprised at your mother-in-law’s take on things. I’m glad you can show her how it’s done. 🙂

  • kelliinkc says:

    My situation is similar to yours! My daughter is a Jayhawk in her third year and on track to graduate in May. She too took as many AP and College Now classes as possible in high school and had the maximum number of credits possible to begin as a Freshman. In fact, she had to drop one of her college now courses while in high schol as she would have been over the allowed amt. She also saved money by not having to take certain classes–like Speech (because she had done debate and forensics in high school), tested out of certain math classes with her ACT scores, etc.

    We paid her first year and then encouraged her to apply for an RA position her second year. She had room and board paid plus a small stipend each month which effectively cut our bill in half! Unfortunately, she is not an RA this year as she chose to pledge a sorority and is living in the house this year. So far she has lined up a desk job at a dorm and a nanny job and we are doing our best to continue to keep her debt free. Certainly the RA job is worth a lot. They had to turn in applications soewhere near the end of the fall semester for the next year if your daughter would consider this job as well. We do have two more to put through though so I am always looking for ideas from other folks going through the same situation. Thanks for your article!! Best of luck!

    • Hi Kelli in KC. We certainly have a lot in common. My daughter is also in a sorority at KU and she’s living in the house this year as well. She took a campus job this week to earn some extra money.

      Good point about testing out of things like speech and math. That was the case for us as well.

      I have heard great things about the RA jobs. That can certainly be a money saver.

  • lana says:

    NOT TO BE a debbie downer, but I would like to address some other realities…lol aka,,, my son’s experience. HE was a dedicated hardworking student , always held a part time job all school year…to boot, great grades, went to community college for credits, volunteered up the yoddle, tons of sports and did great on SAT…. What did he get? NADDA thing. No admittance into state school nor any smiddgen of scholarships. How is this possible? Our state schools are broke! And for the most part expanded admittance to out of state kids- for the extra bucks- Whatever few they admit goes to star athletes , the 1% brainiacks, a few slight of hands, and minorites who work hard. My childs message after busting his butt, nothing goes as planned . Sometimes your child has to go to school where they can. My lesson to my son and everyone else’s who have had this experience, DON”T GIVE UP, dock at your local community college; keep up the hard work and pray 🙂

  • Maegen says:

    I think I mentioned this on a previous post, and I’ll start by saying it’s not for everyone….

    but, we think our state’s 529 or prepaid tuition program is great. In our state, we actually prepay for credits at today’s prices. Our in state tuition went up 20% this year, so we feel like it’s already been a smart investment. Plus, because it’s one of those “automatic,” bills, we don’t have to think about it. It counts as our asset, not our boys’, so it will have a minimal effect on any financial aid they may also receive.

    • Maegen, we don’t have that option in Kansas. Will your sons have to go to in state schools or are their other options? I would have loved to have “locked in” prices a number of years ago. College costs are rising so quickly.

      • Maegen says:

        Hi, Julie,

        They can use it at other schools, but then they’re just using the money saved-as opposed to having credits to cash in. We’re obviously encouraging state schools!
        Btw, both my husband and sister started at community colleges and thought the experience was excellent-my husband preferred many of his community college classes to those at the university where he eventually finished his degree.
        Great article; I’m looking forward to exploring your site.

  • Mary Janssen says:

    We sent our two kids to catholic schools so it was difficult to save money for college while already paying tuition. However, we put some money aside in separate accounts. Our children were strong students as well so for their first two years they went to our local community college which was wonderful. They both were admitted to the Honors Program which provided free tuition. We just had to pay for books. They both received transfer scholarships to our local state university. We were able to save a lot more during their first two years. They both worked part time as well. We made a deal with them that we would pay their tuition and books but they had to pay their housing if they chose not to live at home. Our son lived at home and graduated debt free. Our daughter chose to live away and had to borrow a little bit her last year…very minimal. Happy to say one child got his Master’s degree. The other child got her Paralegal certification.

    • Congratulations to your kids on their educations. I am loving reading about all the different ways families are making it work. Our kids went/go to Catholic schools too, so I know the kind of financial sacrifice you are talking about.

  • Brianna S says:

    I wish I could graduate with no loans but I am afraid it is not going to happen though its going to be less than what I would have had. I took a year and a half of college classes through PSEO and a combo of community college classes. Unfortunately I was a year ahead in school and was unable to make a lot of money to build up while still in high school or in my first year of college as I couldn’t find a job.
    Now I wish I would have done many things different to get more scholarships other than the ones my school gave me but every situation is different and unfortunately my major didn’t provide many. The one thing I am glad about is that I have no credit debt and have lived frugally by borrowing books from friends or buying them used. And now with a job I can pay for an apartment, use coupons and make my own food so I have cut over 2000 off of my bill. All in all plenty of mistakes but still in a pretty decent situation even with my loans.

  • Emily says:

    Many of these comments concern me, as a more recent grad of college (2008). Parents, please don’t make the college decision for your child(ren). Don’t assume that the best choice the THEM is community college or state school.

    Yes, my husband and I both have debt from school. But do I regret for a moment choosing a private school and taking out some loans? No – definitely not! I felt that the only option for me was to go to a Lutheran college in my denomination, and it was 7 hours away from home. Nothing else felt “right.”

    I had invaluable experiences in my time there. Met amazing friends living on campus, worked a fantastic job while there – and best of all: I met my husband. 🙂 If I hadn’t gone there, we would have never met. And THAT would be sad!

    Now, I had a 4.0 in highschool and started college with 18 credits, which allowed me graduate in just 3 years. I am extremely grateful that my dad allowed me to make the choice about where to go to college. He had money saved for me and I had a lot of scholarship funding, too.

    While I am all about being frugal, please don’t let that rob your children of valuable life experiences. Every child is different so please keep that in mind!

  • Amy Lauren says:

    I graduated in 2007 debt free. I was fortunate enough to receive state scholarships, go to an in-state public university, and worked summers AND during the semester at college. A lot of students don’t want to work, but it’s worth it- you will do what you have to to keep your grades up and work and finish, if you really want it.

    I do agree that you can sometimes go to a private university cheaper. I was actually offered a full ride at a private university but decided not to go there because it was too far from home and I didn’t think I’d like it. We did have to pay out-of-pocket for some things at my university, but my parents’ savings handled that (and I think my public university actually has a better reputation than the one I passed up, personally).

    The trick is to weigh your options and for the student to go where he or she is happy. It doesn’t matter how much money you think you’re saving, if the student isn’t happy there, you’ll be paying in the long run.

  • Sam says:

    Great job!

    Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

  • Lori Felix says:

    Hi Julie, What an encoraging blog post. I am one year ahead of you and have done many of the same strategies and a few more that readers may find useful. I started a frugal blog call More With Less Today to share my tips and to fill the void from being an “empty-nester”.
    A few additional tips to consider:
    I had my daughter begin taking classes at the community college in the summer after her 1st year of high school. This accomplished several things in addition to saving money on not having to take those general ed courses in college.
    She entered college with one year “in the bank”. This will help her to finish on time which is the biggest cost saver of all. She got to try some classes to see if she would enjoy them as a future major. She had a wild idea to be a philosophy major in high school and one community college class cured that fast. Switching majors and having to take additional classes can really set you back.
    On her college applications, this dedication set her apart and helped her win some additional scholarships as well as land a partial academic scholarship.
    She has an appreciation for how nice her private school is in comparison to the junior college. She has smaller classes and a personal relationship with faculty and she is coneected to her school and friends which is much more difficult to do as a commuter student. Without the community college experience, she would have probably taken this for granted.
    In an impacted state like California, parents must weigh going to a state school where it is nearly impossible to finish an undergraduate degree in 4 years vs. a private school where you can finish on time with proper planning.
    A few other tips: she is also renting her textbooks from multiple vendors. Encourage your student to keep track of where the textbooks came from. Last semester, she returned a textbook to the wrong vendor and had to pay a late fee!
    When she was younger, I had her take over the coupon clipping and organizing. I gave her the savings as her allowance. It helped her as she could do it around her busy schedule, and it helped me too!
    Lastly, if you are the parent of younger children, save, save, save. That new toy or activity or gadget won’t matter one iota when it is time to pay for college and you are facing the daunting cost!

  • Jenn says:

    This is slightly OT, but there was a wonderful story in our local newspaper a few weeks ago about a single mom attending college at our local juco. She needed a certain textbook she could not find on amazon or any of the cheaper online places, but the university bookstore told her they had one used copy they would hold for her. Even used, the book was well over a hundred dollars. She had scrimped and saved so that she would have enough. When she got to the bookstore, the clerk went and got the book and had a funny look on her face. The student asked her how much she owed, and the clerk told her, “actually, it’s free”. The young lady who had returned in the book did not get the refund for it; she just asked the store to give it to a student in need. I thought that was such a splendid act of generosity, perhaps small (not to the single mom) but very inspiring.

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