BOUNTIFUL — Thirteen years of free public education for our children just might be something we all take for granted like clean drinking water and paved roads.
But when it’s time for that oldest child to head out to college and the costs are no longer paid almost entirely by the government, it can be a bit of a shock.
The cost of a college education can vary dramatically depending on whether the school is public or private, whether your student is attending a school in the state you live or out, and the reputation or ranking of the school. In addition, in most cases, heading off to college means paying not only tuition and fees, but room and board.
It’s always an additional shock when the tuition and rent are paid and it’s time to purchase textbooks. No one is ever prepared for the amount a student will have to spend on a textbook.
So, who pays the bills?
A recent case in New Jersey challenged a student’s notion that parents are required to pay for a child’s education.
At 18, it is pretty generally understood that kids are ready and able to have more responsibility and independence, and we give it to them with extra rights as well.
Some argue that students must focus entirely on their studies and having a job would be a detraction and a deterrent.
Some don’t have to argue – the children know their parents don’t have the money and that if they want to have a college education, they will need to fund it themselves.
Some have found a balance, with students paying what they can and parents helping when they’re needed.
For those who start early, 529 investment accounts can be established through the state – Utah’s is known as the Utah Educational Savings Plan – with earnings that grow tax-deferred.
While parents and grandparents are contributing to the funds, students can contribute to their education by earning grades high enough for them to qualify for some of the many scholarships available. Athletic success also leads to scholarships.
There are myriad grants and there are student loans at low rates where necessary.
In many families, the combination of student work and parent help wins out. Even parents who can, may choose not to pay entirely for a child’s schooling, looking to afford that child another opportunity to learn.
Working at a job, even while studying for a class, can teach skills of responsibility, dependability, teamwork and accountability, skills that are just as valuable as those taught with a textbook.
Students who need to earn part of all of the money required for school are more likely to develop skills like budgeting and tendencies toward frugality are more likely to develop.
When a graduate walks across the stage to accept that diploma knowing he or she earned it not only by studying in a chosen field, but by working to finance those studies, there is an extra measure of accomplishment.
And there is an extra measure of capability.
And those are things money can’t buy.