My daughter Emma has been taking dance since she was 3 years old – it is hard to believe she is 12 now. We are beginning to discuss college these days and different career goals she’s already considering. Her response is, “Mommy I want to move to New York City and be a famous dancer.” Although I want to support her dreams, I am encouraging a plan B in case that does not work out for her. Her plan B is currently teaching. When we discussed which school she might be interested in attending she mentioned a very expensive college that has a current annual tuition and room and board of over $35,000. My eyes widened and I decided we needed to have a mother-daughter talk. I explained the following to Emma:
Assuming she is not eligible for financial aid, we would be paying $81,879 more for the private school but Emma’s starting salary as a teacher would be the same if she went to either school – an estimated $36,000*; which will buy her a lot of ramen noodles and mac ‘n cheese (as she likes these foods now she was actually ok with this). I explained to Emma that the more expensive college is like buying the most expensive pair of brand name shoes from a high-end shoe boutique verses buying a similar pair from a shoe warehouse. Both shoes will do the job but you paid way more than you needed to in order to get the job done!
A college education is valuable and in my opinion no argument that it is worth the money - but picking a college is one of the more important financial decisions in life. It makes sense to take your time and do your homework to make sure you are not buying Manolo Blahnik’s that pinch your toes and end up stashed in the back of your closet!
All illustrations are hypothetical.