I recently heard from the parents of a yet another high school senior who turned down a huge scholarship from a good college to attend her "dream school," which of course has lousy financial aid. Now her parents are scrambling, trying to figure out how to pay for it.
This madness must end.
Asking teenagers to pay the whole cost of a four-year college degree probably isn't realistic or smart. Kids may be cut off from financial aid, since need-based help is largely based on the parents' resources. The debt they accumulate may be crippling, and students who try to pay for school entirely on their own are more likely to drop out.
But the open bar approach isn't wise, either. Setting limits and requiring a kid to pay at least part of the cost can actually lead to better grades while protecting parents' finances.
The sticker price to attend many private universities now exceeds $70,000 per year, including tuition, room, board, books and fees. Most college educations cost much less, of course: The net average cost, after scholarships and grants are taken into account, was $15,367 last year, according to student lender Sallie Mae.
Many families aren't prepared for the expense: Some 4 out of 10 parents aren't saving for college. Among those who are, the average amount saved is $18,135, Sallie Mae found.
The high cost of college and the low rate of savings has led to a whole lot of debt: $1.5 trillion in student loans, at last count. Although the typical college graduate has a manageable level of education debt, it's easy to borrow far more than a student, or a parent, can comfortably repay.
Given these realities, parents should set clear boundaries about how much they'll pay for college.