THE BIG E
If we want our kids to have secure financial futures, we have to pay the price of educating them. The more nerdy they are as teenagers, the more successful they’ll be later on. Brains earn bucks, and nobody knows this better than poor immigrants. I grew up in a neighborhood of hard-working refugees whose children all went to college, whereas. I know more than one wealthy family where the kids are high-school drop-outs.
There are cheapo ways to enrich your kids’ cultural life. I know a few families who reserve Fridays for Classic Movie Night. They make a batch of popcorn and watch old musicals, Hitchcock thrillers, and, as the kids get older, foreign masterpieces from Ingmar Bergman and Kurosawa. Dare I say an evening like this is a much better investment in your child’s future than Friday night football?
But we can’t do all the educating ourselves, and college costs money. As with everything else, there are always ways to save.
Financial aid is available. Federal loans vary from state to state – and sometimes even county to county, and the stimulus package is releasing additional Federal funds for educational grants and loans.
There are all kinds of private scholarships. Many are based on ethnicity and gender – including trans-gender. Some scholarships often go unused because they are so obscure and unusual – like the ones for grandchildren of World War II vets from certain platoons. Here are some other little known listings I just came across:
1. National Marbles Tournament Scholarships
2. Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship and, my personal favorite,
3. National Candy Technologists Scholarship
o Some employers give tuition aid.
o Unions can be a source of financial help.
o I was surprised to learn that you can actually negotiate when a school offers a scholarship. If you’ve received a better offer from another college, you can us that as a bargaining tool, and they will often match the competition.
o There are all kinds of work-study programs, where you not only earn money, but you might actually learn something of value. My son was put to work in the college computer lab, where he acquired many useful skills. He’s still the one I call when my laptop acts up.
o If your kid attends a local community college for two years, he/she can then transfer to a four-year school, and you have saved a bundle. The savings are not only in tuition, which is considerable, but the student can stay at home so you don’t have to cover additional living expenses. Also, you can monitor the beer-binging. Let’s face it: college dorms, frat houses, and off-campus housing are cesspools of alcohol and drug excess. (Maybe the best way to guard against those dangerous experiments is to let kids have a little wine mixed with water at special occasions when they’re growing up, like the French and Italians do - giving them an early lesson in moderation.)
o I spoke to Dr. Leon Botstein, President of my alma mater, Bard College, who advised; “If you want to go to college on the cheap, be a straight A student. There is a lack of excellence in American high school students and high achievers are greatly in demand. Your education will be paid for if you are outstanding – not only in academics, but in music, science, sports. The wealthy do not live up to their privilege, and too many affluent children are poor students.” (That’s because they’re out with mom at the mall, buying pricey designer outfits when they should be at home conjugating French verbs.)
Textbook prices are insane. A student could easily pay close to $500 a semester on books they will probably never need again, like the $150 Introduction to Statistics text required at one school. You can find a lot of these books online, buy them used on campus, or, if possible, buddy up with a classmate. There’s always a way to cut costs if you’re committed to a thrifty lifestyle.