Friday, March 9, 2018

Prepping for College: Debt-Free U (recommended read)

Although this site is about getting your child into an LAUSD magnet school, at some point you are going to start thinking about how you are going to send your child to college- and more specifically, how you and/or your child are going to pay for college.

The numbers are frightening. When my oldest son was little - about ten years ago - I did some math, and concluded that by the time he goes to college, it could easily cost $100,000 per year at many schools.

That’s why I was so excited to read Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette. I am now convinced that there is a way to pay for college without taking out loans. It won’t be easy, but it is possible. And that's why I'm highly recommending this book.

The author makes some excellent points, including:
  • there are different paths for getting to the same place (i.e., a college degree)
  • the absolutely crippling impact of graduating with student loan debt (or, for parents, of sacrificing your future lifestyle and retirement savings)
  • the value (or lack thereof) of “big name” colleges
  • how hard you work is far more important than where you go to school 
I don’t know how much I would have believed these arguments before I went to college, but my personal life experience validates his points:
  • I went to a very expensive, well-regarded private university (in fact, it's mentioned in the book as an example of how expensive schools are). The value of the school’s name had little to no impact on my career. Maybe it would have been different if I’d stayed in the region where the school is located so that alumni networking would have been more valuable, but that's definitely not how it worked out.
  • I had wonderful experiences in college but nothing that would justify graduating with a ton of debt.
  • I had above-average grades from a well-respected school, which was nice on my resume but fantastic grades from a lesser school would have been just as or even more impressive. And for purposes of getting into law school, what really mattered was my LSAT score, not where I got my undergraduate degree.
So based on my personal experience, I think what Zac Bissonette has to say has a lot of validity and is absolutely worth taking into consideration. 

Do I agree with everything he says? No, of course not. And although I think going to community college first is a fantastic option financially, I do really want my children to have the four-year college experience. That experience was truly valuable for me - it just didn’t need to happen at the most expensive school I got into (and if I could go back in time, I would spare my parents that expense for sure). 

Debt-Free U  helped convince me that it will be possible to send my children to college without either of us going into debt. And I hope it does the same for you.

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