I practically put myself through college. My parents helped where and when they could, but it wasn’t enough to cover my tuition let alone my room and board. I received an academic grant that covered a good portion of my tuition and had a small scholarship that paid for a quarter’s worth of books. I also took summer classes at the local community college where it was cheaper and I worked 20-30 hours a week during school. I was a Residential Assistant for 2 of my 4 years at the university, which covered my room and board for those years. The rest went onto student loans. All of my hard work still landed me with about $12,000 in loans once I graduated. Working in high tech after graduation, I was fortunate to be a part of a multi-billion dollar acquisition. I was able to use the profits from my company stock to pay off my car loan and my student loan.
Getting to be debt-free by the age of 26 isn’t the reality for most college grads these days. Average cumulative debt has increased by 5.6% or $1,139 a year since 2003-04. With Facebook’s stock in the dumps, this latest group of college grads working in high-tech doesn’t have a Google-size IPO to fall back on.
My spouse and I decided that we wanted to give the gift of education to our children. We committed to opening a college fund and putting away money each year. We also naively thought that our families would much rather give money to college than gifts at Christmas or birthdays. Turns out we were wrong. Getting our family on board to write a check to us and then trust us to deposit it into a college fund has been tricky. Let’s face it, it’s also not as fun as watching your grandchild open up that hot toy of the season.
One day, I hope that my parents will see that giving the gift of a college education is way more exciting than another toy from the Big Book of Toys catalog. I know my kids may not think it’s all that awesome at 8. But I know for sure, they will be loving their grandparents when they turn 18. The more we are able to save today, the less he’ll have to loan when he’s college bound.
This post is sponsored by ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plans. ScholarShare makes last minute holiday gift giving easy and painless. Through the “Give a Gift” option on its website, www.Scholarshare.com, any gift giver can open an account for children of all ages for as little as $25. And if your family already has an account with ScholarShare, they can contribute to an existing account with the “Gift of Education Certificate.”