Last time, I related how a college mom wanted to give her son $120 a month, and the strong responses it elicited.
This time, as promised, I’m featuring the personal experience of our daughter Pippa, who is in her first year of college.
Cut the Cord?
Ever since Pippa left for college in August, her high school brother Grey has been bothered by how much we’ve kept in touch. At least once a week, we send her a card or postcard in the mail. “Dad, I don’t want you sending me letters when I’m in college. You need to learn to cut the umbilical cord,” he says.
I’m all about the emotional support. Not so much the financial type.
Sending your kid driving down the road of life toward destination ‘Full Financial Independence,’ you can avoid major potholes and roadside breakdowns by sending her on short low-risk solo drives. In other words, trialing it for a semester at a time, to see how it goes. If a tow truck rescue is necessary, it’s better for it to happen in college than afterward.
Tuition and Room & Board
I was going to say here that we are paying all the tuition, and Pippa is paying everything else, but it isn’t that simple.
We are paying all the current out-of-pocket tuition. That’s $24,808 per year. Read about how we shaved $696 off this annual bill by opting out of a payment plan and tuition refund plan.
Pippa is paying deferred tuition in the form of student loans: $5,500 per year, or $22,000 total for four years.
And I’d be remiss to not mention the $34,000 per year in merit aid that Pippa won, due to her hard work in high school. So in effect, she’s really paying for $39,500 (merit aid + loans), or 61.5% of the total $64,250 tuition and room & board bill.
Of course she could have gone to a less expensive state school, but that’s a topic for a different day.
All Other Costs
When Pippa was applying to colleges, we developed this cost spreadsheet for the five colleges she was granted admission to:
The $800 book cost was a guesstimate, based on how pricey books were in Nora & my college days. I think they still are costly, but Pippa worked hard and found some workarounds. For two of her classes – Calculus and Computer Science – she found free eTextbook substitutes online.
For her other two classes – First-Year Writing Seminar and History – she found and printed some online PDFs (she can print 600 pages per year for free) and bought the rest from Amazon. The grand total for all books for the first semester was…[drum roll]…$95.
I asked if she’d take the same approach next semester, and she said she might ditch Amazon. They were a little cheaper than the school bookstore, but by the time you added shipping cost (they were from private sellers and didn’t qualify for free Prime shipping), and that they shipped via turtle express (arriving two weeks after classes started), the cost advantage was offset.
For the other two cost buckets (Travel & Misc Expense), it’s too soon to tabulate, but the early returns look good. Pippa decided to stay on campus for October break, and I’ve been encouraging her to utilize the college’s rideshare database for Thanksgiving.
Other costs so far:
- Cards & stamps
- Toiletries & pillow at Walmart
- Two shirts at Goodwill
- Three in-town cafe and restaurant visits
- Christian fellowship retreat during part of October break
Grand total of these items: $206.
Savings & Income
Savings don’t last long if there’s no offsetting income. She needed to earn some cash.
We encouraged her to look for a work-study job early, before all the plum assignments were claimed. An aggressive push in the first week of my freshman year of college landed me a sweet gig, as I related here.
Pippa started nosing around, and after updating her resume and crafting a cover letter (her first ever), she landed an interview with the Office of Financial Aid. Later that day, I asked how it went. “They told me they’d get back within a week,” she said. Two hours later, she texted: “I got the job!” Sounds like someone was impressed. That’s my girl!
For work study newbs, here’s the basics on how the federally-funded program works:
- You have to qualify for it via the FAFSA
- The average award in 2017 was $2,353
- You aren’t guaranteed a job – you are responsible for getting hired
- You’ll earn the federal minimum wage – $7.25/hr – or state minimum wage, whichever is higher
- Once you have reached your work study award, you may be asked to stop working for the year, but not necessarily
- You can use the money however you want to
- The money you earn is taxable and must be reported on the FAFSA
Pippa is earning Ohio’s minimum wage – $8.55 – as an Office Assistant for 7 hours a week. I asked her this week how it’s going and she replied: “It’s a job.”
There are Worse Jobs…And Butter Ones
Perhaps she entered the college job world with excessive expectations. Her Grammie (my mom) is famous for the butter tasting job she had in college. Which was as wonderful as it sounds.
In the late 1950s when mom attended Cornell University, there was no official work study program. The teenage need for spending money is universal and enduring though, so she took notice when she saw a Help Wanted note on the bulletin board in the Ag School.
“There was an old Russian professor with a few Ks in his name,” she recalls today. He needed a student with a discerning palate to help with his dairy research.
She spent hours every week tasting pats of butter (with crackers) from different samples based on cow breed, age, diet, and also butter storage variables like temperature, age, and container quality.
Mom still can’t believe that anyone would pay her to taste butter, but she wanted me to know that it wasn’t just a creamy indulgence. Because of the important research she did, butter began to be sold in waxed cartons.
My mom the butter taster. Advancing science and padding the purse, all while going to school full time. I’ll raise a cracker to that.