The College Cost Nightmare – What It Cost This Dad to Get 3 Kids Through College

Every year, as summer comes to a close, millions of parents around the country shake off the lazy days of summer to see their kids off to college. Whether their kids are just starting out or returning to college, emotions run high. As does the stress. The financial stress, that is. Some colleges make it easier than others to make those college payments but no matter how you slice it, college costs today are a real financial burden on parents.

When I made my last college payment for my youngest last year, my wife and I felt like prisoners that had just been released after eight years of incarceration. Somehow we survived. Somehow we got our three kids through college on a middle-class income.

I thought I’d share with you the details of what it cost us personally to make that happen. I’m hoping this information will help open your eyes to the real costs of college. I’m also hoping it will motivate you to start planning and saving for college right now.

By the way, like many Americans, we had delusions that our three kids would either get academic or athletic scholarships. One did and, as you will see below, it barely made a dent, thanks to all of the other costs, besides tuition, that parents have to contend with. Put your seat belt on this is going to be painful.

Child #1 – Private College

Total cost was $181,500.

  • Tuition: $125,000
  • Housing: $36,000
  • Food Plans: $12,000
  • Books: $4,000
  • Cash: $4,000
  • Ancillary Fees: $500
  • Subtract Scholarship: $45,000
  • Subtract Student Loans: $25,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #1: $111,500

Child #2 – Out of State State-School, In-State State-School and Study Abroad 1 Semester

Total Cost was $106,000

  • Tuition 1st Year Out of State School: $22,000
  • Tuition Years 2-4 In-State School: $12,500
  • Tuition Study Abroad Semester: $12,000
  • Housing: $36,000
  • Food Plans: $12,000
  • Books: $4,000
  • Cash: $7,000
  • Ancillary Fees: $500
  • Subtract Student Loans: $23,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #2: $83,000

The study abroad set me back an additional $15,500.

Child #3 – In-State Community College Year 1, Out of State State-School Years 2-4

Total Cost was $116,300

  • Tuition 1st Year Community College: $5,500
  • Tuition Years 2-4 Out of State State-School: $66,000
  • Housing: $27,000
  • Food Plans: $9,000
  • Books: $3,500
  • Cash: $4,000
  • Car – Senior Spring Semester: $1,300
  • Subtract Student Loans: $14,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #3: $102,300

Now let’s total everything up:

Grand Total Cost: $403,800

My Total Out of Pocket Cost: $296,800

What to do?

Foe parents just starting out, I have only this advice – save like your life depended on it. You must forge the habit of saving for college for each one of your kids. Depending on your income, your goal should be setting aside a minimum of 5% of your net income, per child, every year in order to make college manageable and minimize how much student loan debt you or your child will take on. If you have three kids, this means setting aside a minimum of 15% of your net income per year. If you can’t do 5%, do anything, but do something.

For those parents with kids nearing college age who have little college savings, you need to have an honest conversation with your children now about the amount of student loan debt they will have to incur in order to get their degree.

Student loan debt of $50,000 or more means your child will be living at home for a few years after college or renting for at least 10 years, as they will not be able to save enough of a down payment to afford buying a home until their net income increases or they pay off their student loans.

The cheapest way to go in order to lower your kids student loan debt is to send your kids to an in-state community college for the first two years and then to an in-state public college for the last two years, with them living at home the entire time. While this may not be the desired choice, it is the cheapest.

Unfortunately, thanks to average annual tuition increases over the past thirty years of 3% (Public) to 5% (Private) and 2.7% for room and board, college costs now equal or exceed the cost of buying a home for the average American. And the trend appears likely to continue.

The new American Dream is no longer buying a home, but paying off your student loans.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. good blog, thanks

  2. Good article, thanks

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