Weelll, I have a lot to say about this topic...
My mom dropped out of college after 1 year to marry my dad. My dad was the first person in his family to ever go to college. He started when I was in 6th grade and graduated when I was in 9th grade. He worked full-time and graduated with honors. His experience and our experience as a family made college part of my realm of possibility.
My dh's great-grandfather was born a slave. (Dh's grandfather is 95). He went to college and became a teacher. Almost everyone since, in dh's family, has completed a bachelor's--at the very *least*. There's sort of an unspoken, ivy-league competition... But, you didn't hear me say that!
I barely graduated from high school, served in AmeriCorps for a year and then went to college. My parents didn't help. I used pell grants and student loans to pay for tuition and worked a lot of jobs to pay for my living expenses. It was hard. I graduated with honors. I don't think that would have happened if I'd gone to college right away.
Dh went to college right away...well, he's a nerd and was actually taking cc courses concurrently with finishing hs. He struggled in his courses because of financial stress. He took a break, joined AmeriCorps (that's where we met
) and then joined the military. They've paid for everything, including his Phd, for which he's now wrapping up research.
Combined, we have about $50,000 in student loan debt. We're okay and basically secure. We make the minimum payments and worry about other debt more because student loans get canceled when you die!
: We have a great gig...dh has a permanent duty station, and in 10 years he will be eligible to retire (at 42) and receive 2/3 of his officer's pay for the rest of his life. Plus, he'll be so young and have great earning power with his Phd. Our retirement is secure.
However, all of our present and future security is completely wrapped up in the government literally owning my dh... He's a "change agent from the inside" kind of guy, but that can suck the life outta ya sometimes, kwim?
I'd like our children to have both security and a little more freedom.
We have 529 accounts for the kids and will contribute as much as we possibly can toward their educations. We feel that we want to take the next step in this generation. Our families made it possible for us to get to college. We want to make it possible for our children to get to college and then start adulthood with as little debt as possible.
I definitely agree with pp that college is not a necessary part of everyone's journey...and that's it's not necessarily a good idea for most traditionally-schooled teens to head directly to college. I'm glad that I served in AmeriCorps first...
Our kids are unschooled, so they will have many years of making decisions, having extra personal responsibility and gaining deeper knowledge of themselves. If they choose, they may be a little more prepared to head to college at the traditional age. Or not... Or they may make a different decision altogether.
As a pp said, the money and our support will wait until they're ready. Or, we'll cut off the ungrateful trolls and give the money to someone else!