Sending our Children to College by
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Prompted By Priciest Purchase

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Even including our home of 45 years, our priciest purchase was our children’s educations. Our own choices of colleges were limited by our parents’ ability to pay. In my case, I had to attend an in-state school, the University of Michigan. My husband also went there as an out of state student, but in those days, scholarships combined with money he earned in the summer and school year enabled him to put himself through college.

Even including our home of 45 years, our priciest purchase was our children’s educations.

By the time our children were looking at schools, we were fortunate to have saved money, combined with a home equity loan, to fund their educations. While we secretly hoped one of them would choose Michigan, we encouraged them to attend the best schools they could get into that they also liked.

Harvard graduation

Our son chose Harvard (he’s in featured photo, fourth from the left in seated row) and never looked back. He’s still living in the Boston area. Our older daughter fell in love with Brown, which turned out to be a great school for her. For two years, we had two of them in college at the same time, which was a bit of a stretch. I’m pretty sure that everything I earned those years went out of our bank account and into the coffers of their respective colleges.

Brownstones  acapella group, daughter on far left

 

Brown graduation

When it was time for our youngest daughter to matriculate, her older sibs had graduated and were able to support themselves. We were surprised when she set her eyes on Duke, but it turned out to be the perfect place for her. By the time she graduated in 1999, her sibs were finished with graduate school, Harvard for our son and Minnesota for our daughter. Graduate school cost us nothing, as they were able to support themselves by being teaching assistants. They had earned their doctorate degrees and met their future spouses, and we breathed a sigh of relief. We were finished … almost.

Duke campus

Graduation in Duke’s chapel

After a year off, child #3 decided to attend Veterinary School at Purdue. While she had some savings, there was no way for her to pay for that without being burdened with a huge student loan. We wanted her to be able to get started with her career, so we thought four more years were doable if we didn’t buy or do anything extravagant.

Vet School graduation, daughter in first row, third from left

There is no doubt that our children’s educations were the most expensive purchase of our lives. Back then, college was far more affordable than it is now. While they wish they could do the same for their children, our grandchildren, it may not be possible to give them carte blanche and fund their educations without incurring some debt. I know we were lucky and privileged to give our children the gift of educations that led to careers they love.

Over the years, we took some wonderful vacations, some of which were a bit pricy. But neither my husband nor I cared much about expensive possessions. Instead, we invested in our kids and that investment definitely paid off.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Spoken like a true educator! Excellent investment choices! My parents made the same choice for us, and my mother commented that they basically lived off my father pay, and all of her teacher’s salary went to the children’s education. And happy to be able to do it. Student debt is a very big deal—a sister-in-law finally got the last bits of her student debt forgiven due to public service—at the age of 65! So now she can retire from teaching. Yikes.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    As usual, Laurie, our great minds think alike and we both thought of our children’s higher education as our “priciest purchases.” Worth it – as you note; it is truly an investment — but, boy, is it pricey! And, as per Khati’s comment, it really shouldn’t have to be.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I’m going to read your story now, John, but we do often see prompts in similar ways. I couldn’t think of anything we spent that much money on. We feel lucky we were able to pull it off, but know our grandchildren won’t have the same options. That said, a good education may be obtained in many wonderful state colleges.

  3. Indeed Laurie all those tuitions was money well spent!
    And fun to see your kids but also Vartan in the photos! My son was in the last class to graduate under his reign at Brown!

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Funding private colleges for your children (as we did for ours) is a great invest and hopefully pays off for them. It can open doors and lead to great opportunities. All these children should be grateful that they are not burdened with huge debt.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      They are grateful but also realize how privileged they were. They are not going to be able to do the same for their children, despite the fact that they all work hard and earn decent livings. As I shared with others, this is just one of m,any things that my grandchildren will not be able to take for granted.

  5. Marian says:

    I’d say your investment paid off big time, Laurie. What great credentials your children have. It’s really a shame about the state of college tuition today, when many (most) families can’t afford it. My niece cobbled together scholarships to help with her undergraduate education at UCLA in state, and then got grants for her graduate work at Duke, to my brother’s major relief.

  6. Suzy says:

    Laurie, you and John had the same idea for this prompt. College degrees certainly qualify as pricey purchases, and your kids were lucky you could take care of that for them. My parents had set up college funds for each of my kids when they were born, buying bonds that would mature in each of the four years they were in college. That made a huge difference. If I ever have any grandchildren, I will do the same.

  7. Susan Bennet says:

    Laurie, you have a beautiful family and yours is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Your graduation photos are the best!

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