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Should You Fund Your Child’s Education?

My Thoughts On Funding Your Child’s Higher Education

For the record, I’m a 38-year-old guy without children, so if you think that the title of this post should be addressed by someone with children then skip this post, I’ll hopefully have something more pertinent next time.

I don’t plan on having children but I was raised in a family in which education was highly emphasized. My parents paid for most of my college education. I took out student loans for some of my college education at University of California, Irvine as well as my medical school education at UCLA. About 5 years after residency I was able to pay all of it off, somewhere close to $200k.

College Education Costs

State colleges can cost around $5-7k annually to attend for tuition alone, this is assuming in-state fees. Books, material, parking, housing etc., would all cost extra. If you live in California, examples would be Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge.

State universities such as UCLA, UC Irvine, would be in the $12k rang without any of the above costs which I mentioned. Don’t underestimate those, as we all recall, rent isn’t cheap in college towns. Assume $30k on the low-end per year. 

Private schools can cost $50k just for tuition, think USC. Some believe it’s easier to get into the private colleges and that they tend to offer more grants/scholarships.

When I went to college, my parents paid for my food expenses, transportation, car insurance, car accidents, entertainment and travel expenses. There was always a new cost popping up for college material and of course housing. Moving isn’t cheap and neither is furniture.

Structured Higher Learning In The US

Remember that schooling isn’t the same thing as learning. I can’t be a good medical doctor just because I have an MD from a medical school or simply because I attended classes.

 

Very few people go to college to learn, instead it’s a necessary stepping stone in order to pursue higher education. I equate it to stopping at a stop-sign even though nobody is around, it’s unnecessary and a waste of gasoline, brake-pads and wears out your transmission prematurely.

You may have loved college, you may have hated it or have neutral feelings towards it. Chances are it’s what you did peripheral to your structured learning that brought you the most joy.

The notion that you will be smarter, more intelligent or even more marketable because you went to Harvard vs CSUN is absurd. It’s a rumor perpetuated by the pricier universities. Feel free to disagree, but my personal survey of those around me makes me conclude that success and competency is much more a personal factor than where a person received their education.

I will take it up a notch, hoping to get some hate-comments in reply, by saying that a young adults’ education is not the priority at most universities. The majority of such schools are businesses first and foremost, very successful ones in fact, where the student’s success matters in as much as how it will reflect upon the school’s reputation.

I don’t believe medical schools to be much different. UCLA was a great place to learn but most of my test questions were recycled… though somehow I still managed to fail the final for pharmacology. The lectures were given by professors who I felt were generally detached from the subject and even more so from the art of teaching. The point is that UCLA has a certain reputation because of some noted professors and a ton of money that gets them great notoriety.

Conversely, schools which are easier to get into such as Ross Medical School in the Caribbean, has a worse reputation. And yet I have met brilliant doctors from there. My comparison breaks down here, however, because Ross costs probably more than UCLA to attend.

Paying For Education, Not College

I think it is one of the most important thing a parent can do, paying for a child’s education, I didn’t say for college, but education. Paying for college education is a luxury that I don’t believe a parent should be responsible for.

When you pay for college you are paying mostly for the professors to earn a salary, for the expensive facilities where research is performed, for fancy architects to get their name stamped on a structure, for grants to be given to less affluent students and for more dorms/parking structures to be built in order to generate income for the university.

Education is necessary in order to navigate the world around us, but college education isn’t. From learning interpersonal skills to learning how to manage resources, learning how to learn and organizing thoughts. Learning to communicate with others from all walks of life, learning to lead, learning to follow. Education is teaching a child compassion, empathy, reasoning skills, and analysis.

I wasn’t taught 90% of the above points, neither during my family upbringing nor by my university. Instead, I learned how to obey, how to blindly accept concepts and how to get my way. We forget that empathy, compassion and reasoning have to be taught – it’s really hard to learn such things in a college.

Independent Learning, Education On A Budget

Of course, college education has its place but it needs to have a lot emphasis placed on it. Let’s accept the fact that it’s another checklist needed to get to where we need to go and that it most certainly is not the higher education that it promises.

It’s 2017 and it’s easier to learn damn near anything than it is to find a public toilet in the US or clean drinking water in the rest of the world. Information is spewed across the web for free.

We should allow our children to take courses online to learn about the things that interest them far before the age when they enter a structured education, where all creativity is squashed. 

They should have adequate funds to start their own businesses. They should have access to resources to solve problems they encounter. If they want to have more swings built in the park near them then they should know who to contact, what to say, how to raise awareness in their community and how to rally people around their cause.

A child should be allowed to completely structure their own learning based on their topic of interest. If they are fascinated by astronomy then they should be able to look up the textbooks and courses that are taught in college and create their own learning course. It is quite easy these days to emulate a college education at probably 1/100th of the cost.

I Wish My Parents Didn’t Pay For College

Most of us who had our education paid for are very grateful and I am so fortunate to have had parents who paid for most of my college education. I maintain the position that I wish that my parents didn’t support me financially.

It’s not just about paying for college. I wasn’t a responsible young adult when it came to finances. I wasn’t rebellious or a troublemaker either, but I certainly learned to rely on my parents for my expenses, a perpetuated dependency. They even helped me out when I got myself into way too much credit card debt towards the end of college.

I would feel differently if I had already developed a sense of financial responsibility, but honestly, few of us achieve such relevant skills at a young age. I think parents tend to have blinders on when it comes to their children, so they may not always be the best people to judge whether little Janey is financially responsible.

Funding Your Children’s Education

I wanted to delve into 529 plans or similar plans which allow parents to set money aside for their children’s education. The problem is that these are very State-specific and a blog isn’t the ideal platform for share this information with you.

If a 529 plan or similar plan interests you, I recommend that you go on clarity.fm and search for a financial adviser in your State and pick their brain. A competent CFP or CFA should be able to answer such a question for you in about 5 minutes (clarity.fm charges by the minute).

The majority of higher-income households tend to set money aside in taxable investment accounts, knowing that the money has time to grow. They then cash this account out when the child is nearing college age.

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