dealing with college cost discrepancies

When One Child’s Education Costs More Than Another

Michael Lux Blog, Student Loans 0 Comments

We recently heard from a parent who was worried that college for one daughter’s private school education cost more than the other daughter’s public school education.  This parent was concerned that spending was fair between the kids.

Some Perspective

This site was created to help the 43 million Americans trying to pay off their student loans.  These 43 million were not fortunate enough to have parents able to afford their entire education.  For a child who didn’t have to take out loans or pay for school, the only emotion they should be experiencing is gratitude.

Getting Back to Fairness

For families in this fortunate position, it is probably worth considering that these costs cannot be viewed in a vacuum.

One child may spend less on college but need help starting a business.  Another may want help funding a wedding or down payment on a house.

No two kids are exactly the same, nor are their needs the same.  As a result, the spending on each child will not be identical.

What About Families With Limited Funds

Things get trickier in households where mom and dad can help to a limited extent.  Paying for one child entirely while not helping another would seem to be a major issue.

Discuss things as a family – One of the best ways to prevent hurt feelings in any situation is to have an open dialogue.

Use the Learning Opportunity – College is no longer the slam dunk investment it used to be.  This isn’t to say that college is a waste of money… it is just important to be smart about spending.  Certain schools and certain majors offer a poor return on the investment.  When funds are tight it is critical to make sure that school is worth the cost.

[Further Reading: The “Good Debt” Fairy Tale]

Real Problems

If your child is keeping a close eye on how much each child “gets” there is an issue… and it has nothing to do with spending.

Another completely unrelated issue to watch out for is stretching too far to pay for school.  Parents would be wise to remember that you can always borrow money to pay for school, but you cannot borrow money for retirement.  Taking care of your kids finances is a noble goal, but don’t make the mistake of spending too much to the point you have to rely on your kids in your later years.

Bottom Line

There is no formula for fair spending on college between kids.  Kids should be grateful for whatever help they can get and parents need not worry about being the bean counters of fairness.