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  • margaretfmadigan

Mo' College, Mo' Money

Simple question today…

If you are a parent, who should pay for college?

As you all know I have a son who is a Freshman at NYU.  Luckily he is wicked smart and got lots of scholarships.  The leftover is paid with loans.  Loans that he will pay after he gets out of school and probably until the end of time… and passed onto his heirs to pay.  Unless he becomes that international business dude he aims to be and can actually pay them off some day.

Jack college

Move in day at NYU for my son

Anyway, he also does work study.  He has a totally sweet gig that I wish I had had in college, not only because it’s better than schleppin’ slop in the dining hall but it’s great for a resume.  As you all know most resumes of kids right out of college boast things like “cashier at Urban Outfitters”, or “server at Chili’s”, or if they’re really lucky “bartender at Don’s Mixed Drinks” (a real place in Denver, btw).  His job?  Operations assistant at NYU MBA admissions office.  Ya’ know he files and sorts applications and does spreadsheets, nothing glamorous, but what an “in”, I tell ya’.  So that’s his spending money.

But I feel guilty as hell.  I’ve been broke ass broke for several years now.  Ex-husband left the picture, stopped paying for a few years (now coming back in drips and drabs but nothing to write home about).  So I have that whole Catholic guilt about making up to the kids for me being broke and their Father abandoning them.  I know, I know shut up it’s what we Irish Catholics do.  It’s like our favorite past-time.  I want to give them everything.  But I think the best lesson my kids learned out of all of this is that they can’t always have everything in life, life just isn’t fair sometimes.

I digress.  I struggle with who pays what.  Does he pay for books? Should I pay for books?  Do I give him a monthly allowance?  Do I help pay for spring break?  Do I pay the fraternity dues or does he?  Do I pay part of the loans back or does he?  I paid the deposit for enrollment and deposit for housing (which were hefty) so is that my fair share?  Ugh.

So for advice, just before school started I get on the Facebook page for parents of incoming students in the NYU class of 2016. (seems surreal doesn’t it?  I was college class of 1987, I couldn’t fathom 2016 then, I thought we’d be wearing Star Trek uniforms by now)  And a Mother starts a little forum about “How much are you giving your child for an allowance at school?”.  Not even if, but just how much.  I thought ok this will help.  Until I saw the answers.  “I’m thinking $100 a week, but is that too little?  Maybe $150?  You know so she can go to a movie, get some frozen yogurt, mani/pedis, maybe a cute outfit for a function?”.  Since when are these “necessities”? Then they all go back and forth debating whether it’s too little.  Meanwhile my lofty goal was $100 a month.  Hey, it’s college you get all your meals there and what’s a keg party these days, $5 a pop?  What does a boy need?

Actually he was fine with that.  He’s such a good kid.

When I was in college I literally had no budget.  No, not because I could spending anything I wanted… I wasn’t supposed to spend anything.  Now, God rest my Father’s soul who just died in October, loved him immensely.  But he was notoriously cheap.  He was a child of the Depression, that’s how they were brought up.  So, his great idea was you don’t need anything but if you do, write a check and then I’ll deposit the money.  I was in college in Maine, they were in NY, back in the early 80s it took like a week for  an out of state check to go through, you could do that.  But with a drunk college kid who orders pizza at 2am who writes a check for $3, you often forget to tell Dad.  And you don’t think I was embarrassed writing a check for $3?  Oy.  And I would have to go to the bookstore to cash a check for $5 if I wanted to go to a couple parties that weekend.  If I wrote a check for more than $5 I’d get a lecture.  And remember there wasn’t a vast network of ATMs then.

The best months I ever had were when I sold back my books at the end of a semester and had that small set amount I knew I could spend.  Yea, I think learning to budget was a much better lesson.  I choose to teach my kids to budget.  But who makes the budget?  Do I give an allowance or make them save from a job?

I knew people who… if they wanted to go to college back in the day, they had to pay for it.  Everything.  If you didn’t get the money, the parents said, “tough crap”.  Now most of the time these were blue collar parents with no college education.  They didn’t see an immediate need for college I guess.  Or they really didn’t have the money, I don’t know.  If my ex-husband hadn’t have gotten a hockey scholarship to college he probably wasn’t going to go.  And he wasn’t stupid, he was an A student at the same private all boys Catholic school my son went to (both of them on scholarship).  But it was all his money if he wanted to go.  I knew kids who couldn’t come back a certain semester because they didn’t have the money and the parents said “tough crap”.

I know it depends on the financial situation but which is better? Mom and Dad to foot the bill because he’ll have plenty of bills later, or he’ll better value his education if he pays for it all?

Do I make him use all his work study to pay for all incidentals or should I still pay for books?  I mean yea, if he wants falafel from the street cart, use your own money but what about the bigger stuff?  Thoughts?

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