Money money money. How ever do we survive with our constant focus on money – all the fear and obsession, the mistakes, the debting, and especially, the college tuition!?!
We are at that juncture now. The final decision must be made by May first. We are looking over the financial aid offers, and sending in appeals. The complications here are seemingly endless. For starters, the tuition costs about $30,000 per year. But with room and board, books, travel, etc.. they estimate $50,000. The financial aid offer was a $10,000 scholarship, a $5,500 Grant, and another $7000 in loans per year. So they think the parents can come up with another $27,500 per year? I’m baffled. So I sent a letter, and we wait. Always the wait.
Then there are the grandparents who had promised $6000 per year, but when they heard that she wanted to do Musical Theater they said they would not support that. Of course, they never said this to her directly, or even to me. It’s other family members who are relating this information to us. What about some direct communication? So I guess we can’t count on that money.
At his point, what are our options? To deny her the college experience she has worked so hard to achieve? All the AP classes taken in high school, the college applications and auditions to be a complete waste of time? Was this an exercise in futility? I don’t think so. I have to remain positive. She has applied for many outside scholarships, and plans to work every summer to earn some of her living expenses for the year. The alternative is to stay home, get a job, go to community college, and let her dreams drift away. Nope. Not my kid. No effing way.
I think back to my own experience arriving at UC Santa Cruz. There had been very little discussion about money, or even my applying for school. I did it all myself, deciding on UC Santa Cruz because several of my friends went there. My mom helped me move in, her Toyota stuffed to the gills with all my stuff and some new dishes. I even had an expensive new knife that was stolen within the first two weeks of my time there. I moved in to a “suite”, which was for seven women in a dorm-like apartment. We had two double rooms, and three singles. It was all pretty nice, my room looking out over the trees and directly above the student-run health food store.
But the money had never been discussed in my family. My second night at school we all went to a meeting for the incoming freshmen and everyone was supposed to be getting to know the staff and each-other. At the end of the meeting they asked us for our apartment deposits, about $1,100 I think. I just sat there in tears, frozen in my chair. I had no money, no plan, no $1100 check from my parents. I ended up calling my dad, begging for the money he had at one point offered but later forgotten. He grudgingly agreed to send me a check, but I had to get a job right away. Needless to say my time at UC Santa Cruz was short. There were so many kids whose parents were paying for them to be there, and I just couldn’t relate. I ended up at SF State, a much less expensive way to go, a school where I was not alone in working full time while being in school.
Last weekend my daughter and I met with her father to discuss college money. We sat around my kitchen table and talked about how much her top choice will cost, how much we could each afford to pay, and what the worst case scenario will be in terms of loans if the school doesn’t give us more or if she doesn’t get more scholarships. I felt a deep sense of relief having talked about it openly like this. We can make this happen for her, and she is motivated to work to earn money every summer. She has two supportive parents, a dream, and very strong motivation.
Looking back over the past year I still wonder at how we all do this insane dance sending our kids to college. I talked with a friend today who is in the same boat – a single mom who wants her daughter to get to go to the school of her choice, but it’s more than they can afford. She laughed at how she is on a first name basis with the financial aid office staff. Then we talked about all the young adults moving back home after they finish college because they struggle to support themselves. We laughed, we commiserated, we wished each-other luck. At least I’m not alone in this process!
Next weekend we leave for New York for a last look at the two schools she was accepted to. I will be on the phone with them this week, praying for a crack in the financial aid wall so we can make the final decision and then rejoice.