The Cost of Extracurricular Activities

by Louise

Kids’ Extracurricular Activities May Cost More Than You Think

Totebaggers – I was talking to a lady who was spending approx. $350/month on dance lessons for her two daughters. This didn’t include recital, costumes or other fees. Her daughters had been in dance since they were little but now as high schoolers their interest had waned and they were on the fence about continuing lessons. Their mother decided to cut the lessons out. “I’m tired and spending too much money”. There was some drama but the parent wanted a firm exit rather than continue to pay and have the kids not go.

Totebaggers, what do you think of all the activities your kids have been involved in ?
Worth it or not ? Are we collectively spending too much time and money ?
We have new parents who may benefit from the advice.

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343 thoughts on “The Cost of Extracurricular Activities

  1. This might be a question for CofC, but my understanding is that getting into the college of your choice is +80% class rank, GPA and SAT/ACT scores. So, if you’re dancing or playing soccer out of love, for exercise or to make friends, that’s great. But, if your theory is that your dance or soccer are going to help you land a spot at UVA or Tufts, that’s probably not going to be the case in the vast majority of cases.

  2. Extracurriculars can be really expensive. If I remember correctly both club volleyball and high school dance team were over $2k each, maybe $2500. Competitive cheer was even more. Summer camps and things were extra. On the opposite end of the spectrum, scouting was very affordable. I’m not as familiar with the costs of little league, but friends of my son go to baseball sleep away camp each summer and seem to spend a small fortune on bats, etc.

  3. I’m not a parent, but I’m going to struggle with this. We didn’t get to do any extracurricular activities, like gymnastics or piano or dance. Mostly because my family didn’t have a lot of money to spare and us kids were so eclectic in our interests that if everyone had a lesson just once a week, we would have been gone almost every day. I would have liked to have some music lessons, I think. However, my sister now plays the violin in an orchestra and she didn’t pick it up until college. We were supplied with as many books as we could save up for or our parents could justify buying, and we had a guitar and piano and plenty of needlework laying around the house that we could pick up and learn. We also had land, so I got to have a horse as a kid, which made up for not being able to get horse-back riding lessons, lol. So, all in all, even though I was jealous of my friends’ abilities to play instruments, I think I learned a lot of useful things without the ability to take lessons. :)

  4. I agree with MMH; there are lots of useful things to do and says to learn without taking lessons.

    We had minimal extracurriculars. My mother was quite insistent about piano lessons for about five years for each of us, we all did scouting, and I did some sports when I was in MS/HS. We also took horseback riding lessons for a year or two.

    My son has bounced around in various interest, from dance to gymnastics and now basketball. He’s done four of the Y’s short six game seasons, so he’s begining to understand things like how a team comes together, how to support a teammate and fit your skills together, and when versatility is and isn’t helpful. I hope he sticks with it for those reasons, but I doubt anything will come of his hoop dreams. 1 game & 1 practice per week is right for him–school wears him out. I don’t think he’d do well on his cousins’ schedules of a couple hours of practice every day. The high school girl is on school teams now (soccer & rowing); the MS girl is on travel teams, including one that’s supposedly one of the top 25 programs in the country. I’m not sure what the point is, but that’s their decision.

    I’d like to get him more involved in academic extra-curriculars, like geo or spelling bees, Lego competition, or story-telling. We have also been talking about having him do Latin on-line, and then I would not require him to take Spanish at school. Does anyone know good online Latin classes?

  5. I think, for students who want to get into a great college, there needs to be a “hook”. I think many people, mistakenly, assume that continuous participation in an expensive extracurricular activity is a way to get that “hook”. I have met highly competitive college students who have done a wide variety of activities that do not require extensive financial support from parents (though most have required extensive logistical support) This may include self publishing books, research at a local university, working for local campaigns. I think the path that starts out with rigorous water polo instruction occurs because the parent knows that there are students who get scholarships to college for water polo, and the way to do that is to pursue water polo with as much dedication as possible. However, the odds of being a water polo player who gets a significant scholarship to college are pretty small. I think, most parents, don’t know a student who has gotten into college because of peer reviewed research they pursued in high school, or from producing a well respected and well read web forum on French film in the post World War II era. There is not a lock step process to be one of those students. So, the straightforward answer, is to get extra water polo coaching.

  6. My kids played soccer and football when they were younger, but they were never interested to continue beyond a season or two. Same with guitar. They are both very active in boy scouts, school clubs, and both play racquetball regularly. This is enough for us.

  7. Saac, re: Spanish in high school, just wanted to make sure you are aware that most colleges require a few years of foreign language in high school for admittance, in case that plays into your planning.

  8. Neither of our kids excels at their extra-curricular activities for them to be an “in” for college. The costs vary over time – start up in an activity is always high – first uniform or band instrument for example. The bigger issue is likely the time spent transporting and volunteering because some activities, especially scouts, do not have paid staff. We have enouraged trying different activities for exercise as we hope they will find something before college that they can continue with at least until middle age, if not longer.

  9. Organized extracurriculars we’ve done in no particular order. Some were a let’s try this/one shot deal, some were/are for many years. For only one, the intense travel baseball, was the objective more than “fun, something to do with friends”:
    swimming lessons (but that’s a survival and social skill)
    Gymboree
    kindermusik
    guitar lessons
    piano lessons
    drama lessons
    cub scouts
    boy scouts
    soccer (rec)
    ice hockey (house/local, and travel)
    baseball (local/Little League, travel, really intense travel)
    CYO basketball
    karate

    In HS, generally included in the price of attendance:
    Masterminds
    Volleyball
    Football
    Baseball
    Track
    Film Club
    Yearbook

    I may have forgotten some

  10. Ada,

    I think parents are also mislead by what one might call cocktail party braggadocio, where a $2500 scholarship gradually morphs through time and telling into a “full ride.”

  11. Honestly in casual conversation with friend I have begun talking in terms of “list price” (tuition) and the amount of discount.
    (I only count tuition since the room/board/books amount is roughly the same everywhere, unless the student is living at home…i.e. zero incremental housing/rent costs)

  12. No doubts about them accepting Latin. Wasn’t sure about them accepting an online course – my point was to consider that when selecting a course.

  13. I definitely had a “hook” with my college applications, which was a bit costly with choir camp but nothing compared to equipment, travel, etc., with most sports.

    We have so far with the kids done baby music, baby swim, regular swim lessons, ballet (all 3), gymnastics camp, science preschool camp, T-ball (the older 2 this year), and piano lessons (#1). Nothing has been that expensive so far, except the semi-private swim – that one I got because the “group” lessons were really terrible.

  14. Sports and music don’t really help with elite college admissions unless one is a recruited athlete or an extremely high level musician AND the orchestra/band desperately needs the instrument in question that year.

    Honestly most applicants to elite schools keep a packed schedule of activities so it’s a strike against you if you are “just” a student. That laundry list of ECs, even being captain of the cross country team or first violin or whatever, is seen as just par for the course.

    Given this, I don’t think it makes sense to spend a fortune on ECs for the sake of college admissions or scholarships. Spend it only if there is a truly outstanding talent and/or the child actually loves the activity in question.

  15. DD is in 9th grade. She’s played select soccer since 5th grade. She also plays on her school teams (middle school and high school). Select soccer runs about $2k – $3k a year. We do this because DD really likes soccer. It won’t pay off financially – I think she’s unlikely to get a soccer scholarship and if she does, I’m sure it will be less than what we’ve paid for soccer. However, DD really likes it and I want both my kids to do some type of sport/physical activity that they can hopefully continue as adults. In Seattle, lots of adults (including DH) play soccer year-round.

    DD also does crew in the summer through a city rec program. Now crew is a sport where DD could probably get a sports scholarship and/or it would help her with admission to college if she did crew year-round (and dropped soccer). However, it’s just a fun summer activity for DD. Although I would guess that DD is one of the top 30 soccer players in her age group in Seattle, I doubt it will help her chances of getting into a college. If she was one of the top 5 – yes. But there are a lot of girls playing soccer across the country.

    DD has also been in band but she’s going to drop it next year. She loathes the marching band part.

    DS is 9. He does aikido which runs about $80 a month. He also does various afterschool activities at his elementary school. For winter quarter, he took a Magic class (magic as in the card game, not actual magic tricks). This quarter he is taking floor hockey. I was quite surprised that he wanted to do this as he usually hates team sports – but a friend of his had done it and liked it so he wanted to give it a try. I’m up for anything that gets him running around.

  16. Saac- I think Latin would be great for your son. It helped me so much in all sorts of academic endeavors later on. The only caution I’d give is that Latin is in extremely demanding language and pretty boring at first, so independent online learning is going to require an extremely self-motivated kid. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it in middle school. Find a course that will really engage him and/or follow up closely with him to make sure he’s doing the work.

  17. My only advice is to really not worry about this when the kids are little. The baby/toddler/preschool stuff is so expensive. Do it if YOU want to, not because you think the kids are getting anything out of it. They’re not. Plenty of time for the madness and it definitely does add up quickly. And my kid is only 7.

    We started small. One thing at a time & added slowly and thoughtfully. We try not to overbook weekends at least while he is this young. He absolutely oves baseball – we will let him take that as far as he wants to go, and did end up shelling out $$ for winter clinic in lieu of more Xmas presents (he got far more enjoyment out of the clinic). Swimming is a requirement until he is a strong enough swimmer on his own (and he wants to try water polo because he sees those kids coming in after his lesson & thinks it looks fun).

    As much as we can do through the school after-care program, the better. Less shuttling, and he gets to do it with his school friends whereas the programs outside of school are a mix of kids from nearby neighborhoods who all go to various schools.

  18. My kids have been in their activities for some time now. Between them, they have quit one activity because they wanted to do another. The activities are recreational, not competitive and two like swimming and martial arts fall more into the life skills category.
    As the parent in charge it was up to me and my schedule as to how much I wanted to take on.
    This prevented me from enrolling them in activities that I perceived to be too much of a time commitment or on a day of the week I needed downtime. Over time we have fallen into a routine where we all know the schedule by day of week. Some seasons like spring and fall are bit busier but winter is slower. The kids are happy with what they are doing. They are not the most athletic but over time they have gotten competent at certain things outside of school. They also get to interact with different coaches/teachers who have varying styles and how they react and deal with that is interesting to watch.

  19. Like others, I view swimming lessons as non-negotiable. DS1 learned to swim in standard group lessons. DS2 did not progress at all with group lessons and wound up being very frustrated. He did very well with private lessons, which I think is a good option for both parents and kids.

  20. We spend money on extracurriculars for sure. Even when I was growing up, my parents always sprang for lessons, even though we didn’t have a ton of extra cash around. Same for DH’s family – and they were a working class family with 4 kids. None of this is done as a hook for college. No one at Harvard is going to care if my kid did 10 years of violin lessons and played in the HS orchestra. But my kids are all comfortable playing music, and when they are grownups, they might (like my DH who had tons of music lessons as a kid) join an amateur orchestra or play in a punk band or in a polka band. My youngest does team sports, mainly because she enjoys those, and by the time you add up all the equipment, those aren’t always cheap either.

  21. I noticed that 7th grade at my kids school had quite a few different team sports listed. However, I think that except for one or two sports – those teams will be filled with kids who have already taken those sports in elementary school. Am I wrong in thinking this ? or is there still opportunity for those who have never played those sports before ?

  22. join an amateur orchestra or play in a punk band or in a polka band

    I’m a terrible person because I close my eyes and I try to think of a bigger waste of time and money and I can’t think of anything. Keep in mind, I’m totally in the wrong here.

    I think it has to do with my lack of a hobby gene.

  23. Yeah, I didn’t include things like swim lessons or Kindermusik. We did those too, and he’s done a lot of week long summer “camp” programs, nearly all science & tech. None of that will go on the college appli.

    Ada, good point about needing to do something “extra” that makes one a stand-out. It’s hard to figure out what that is, but maybe the next time my kid starts talking and talking and talking about some invention yada yada, I might want to pay attention and challenge him to make it happen. I had hoped he and his robotics instructor would have a spark to start a mentor relationship in that direction, but it never happened :/. They get along fine, but “more” didn’t happen.

    Rio, I don’t understand your argument. If excelling at “standard” extracurriculars is par for the course, why do you say not to bother?

    We had a conversation recently about starting to shape his college application resume. Not what I expected when I decided to have a kid, but he is so happy these days to just do what’s required that I feel the need to set up other “requirements”.

  24. Sorry Rhett, but playing in amateur bands has always been a huge source of joy for my DH, and also at times for me (before kids, I was a not-too-bad fiddle player and loved going to the festivals and jamming with people). A lot more fun than baking on beach, that is for sure.

  25. Mooshi, did you meet your husband when he was playing in a punk band;)? If my kid had the energy your kids show to do stuff, I wouldn’t feel the need to push him. I don’t want to overload him, so I am careful not to do too much, but in recent years he has turned into a slug! He has spoken several times about making websites for people. Maybe that’s the direction I should push him in, instead of inventing something.

  26. Rhett – similarly, I need to be part of a singing group or something is missing. I haven’t missed more than 6 months of singing since I was 6 (and those months out were all for maternity leave).

  27. I am amazed when I talk to adults at how many learnt to play an instrument and play at least one sport. In my area of the country – church choirs are filled with amateur musicians and singers. I am sure many are in bands like Mooshi described.
    The sports lovers sign up for triathlons..

  28. I’m not really sure what your kid would get from making websites for other people, aside from donating free labor. Is this for a charity that he believes in? Then yes. Otherwise, that is such a lowlevel skill that it wouldn’t do much for him, challenge wise.

    Trying to keep kids from being slugs is hard. My oldest would spend his entire spring break surfing YouTube videos or laying on his bed staring at the ceiling if he could. Yes, yes, yes, I know some on this list would say what is wrong with that – but my oldest is not happy with himself when he does that. He ends up depressed and cranky because he has an image of himself as someone who accomplishes things. And he can, but he needs a push to do it.

  29. Yes, my husband was a punk rocker when I met him. He played several nights a week and did some recording too.

  30. Trying to keep kids from being slugs is hard.

    I noticed during our discussion of staying home with a baby, Milo said it was easy and you said it left you completely exhausted. It sure seems to me that there is a business gender divide. If the baby is napping a guy might say f— folding the laundry and emptying the dishwasher, I’m taking a nap. Where a women would say, I need to fold the laundry and put everything away.

  31. Saac- yeah that was kind of unclear. I guess what I’m saying is don’t start or stick with an expensive activity thinking it is likely to make a difference. Because the kids without “hooks” almost never get into schools like the Ivies or Stanford anyway. Not doing travel soccer may reduce a kids’ chances to 1%, but doing travel soccer only raises them to maybe 2%. So not likely to make a difference either way.

    Instead of doing the typical expensive music/dance/travel sports thing, have the kids do something or several things that they are passionate about and really love. That makes them much more likely to develop a “hook” anyway.

    Personal example- I did extremely time-intensive and expensive club swimming starting at a young age. By late high school it was clear that I wasn’t going to be D1 caliber. I made the difficult decision to take a summer off from training and did an intensive science lab internship. I got my name included in published research. That probably helped me 10x more with colleges and scholarships than the thousands of hours I spent in the pool.

  32. we’ve had DS in tumbling/gymnastics since he was 2, he enjoys it and being an only child, it is a good way for him to be around kids his age. He did a 2 month basketball program through the YMCA this year and will be doing a similar soccer program. None of this is expensive (yet) at least compared to the dance classes mentioned above.

  33. Louise – my experience is that most kids will have experience playing the sport before trying out for a middle school or high school sport. At my daughter’s middle school, there were a few girls who had never played soccer before who tried out for the team – and they were given spots on the JVC team (the school had a no cut policy). But 95% had played before.

    Crew is an exception – most kids here don’t start crew until middle or high school (I think you need to be a certain size so it just wouldn’t make sense for elementary kids to do it).

    Also, there are some kids who haven’t run competitively before middle school or high school and try track or cross country.

    And lacrosse is still a young sport in Seattle – so that’s a sport that kids may start playing in schools at a later age than sports like basketball or soccer.

  34. S&M, does your son like Make magazine? To me, that is a great way to read about what is possible and to identify what you like, project-wise. In the late ’90’s, when building websites was harder, my brother created a part-time job for himself doing the website for the local United Way. Mooshi may be right that it’s low level, but it was the right level of challenge at the time and let him monetize his skills. (He worked less than 10 hours/month at minimum wage but still…)

  35. Basically colleges expect kids to be doing *something* with their free time but unless the kids are recruited athletes, I don’t think they distinguish much between expensive travel soccer or the local parks department league. And the kid in the parks department league may have the energy to also do something a little more unique in her free time, like found a club to teach low income kids to program or something.

  36. WCE, he actually went to the house of an acquaintance of my BiL who writes reviews for Make magazine. Cool stuff everywhere, some of which he knew how to operate. But there was no way on earth I could get him to write a thank you or any other kind of follow up so he’s pretty much lost the contact :/

  37. If he did the website thing, it would be as a business. He is into making bank these days, but doing a lemonade stand or yard work as he has in the past is more exertion than he wants. Popcorn Boy’s dad is way involved with JA, so I think he could help DS learn how to set up books, etc.

  38. SSM – there seems to be much more to choose from in middle/high school. Also, some things build on the other – so if you haven’t taken Music I, it might be tough to do Music II. This is all new to me, so I make sure to attend every parent meeting.

  39. @SSM — Au Contraire: My daughter, a kindergartener in Seattle, just did a school unit on Lacrosse.

  40. saac, I suspect he’d have to figure out the stuff in the magazine on his own- he might be able to meet other kids who are interested at a Maker Fair if you have those in your area. Most adults don’t have the time/interest to work with a middle schooler. For that, I think you are correct in pursuing your local robotics team.

  41. My DD did “dance” from age 3 – 5, then switched to gymnastics because more of her friends were doing it. But then they were in more advanced groups and she never made friends in her class, didn’t seem to enjoy it much, and always wanted to skip. So I talked her into trying swim team last summer instead, which turned into 2x/week through the fall & winter. The cost for all of these activities has been about the same – $50-70 per month – but the dance recital costumes were ridiculous! I know that swimming can become much more expensive if we get into traveling for meets, but that’s still several years in the future. At least there’s not much equipment required and it’s an individual sport she can do for the rest of her life, not to mention that she’s just getting stronger in an important life skill.

    I’ve tried twice to get her into piano lessons, with the second teacher including some singing time too, but she just did not have the maturity to cooperate with the teacher and practice at home. And it’s a shame because she showed some real talent. There will be more opportunities for group music (band/choir) later in elementary school – I think her behavior will be better in a group setting, plus there’s the peer pressure to learn your part. She also has really started to enjoy acting/theatre, thanks to a teenage family friend and a special teacher. That has helped her with reading, creativity, and getting over some shyness. I will gladly pay the $20 per music lesson and $150 per semester for theatre class when she’s getting so much out of it.

  42. Well, if he is making money building websites, then he should go for it. Making money is always good. Building a basic website is mainly an exercise in formatting so it doesn’t teach you much per se. On the other hand, there may be more to it – is he writing all the content himself? If so, he is learning writing skills. Is he programming a PHP backend? If so, he is learning some programming. Is he turning this into a business, with a bunch of cliens? Then he is learning sales ability and time management.

  43. “I doubt anything will come of his hoop dreams.”

    I think the hoops skills he’s developing now will come in handy in the future. He might not play on his school teams, but the skills he develops could very well get him onto intramural teams, and later into company or professional (e.g., lawyer , doctor) league teams.

    Besides being fun, and a good way to get exercise, those are also good ways to network.

  44. “do you think colleges wouldn’t accept Latin as a foreign language?”

    I don’t think it’s a matter of accepting Latin; you need to make sure he takes enough Latin to meet the requirements of the colleges he wants to attend. For some, one or two years won’t be enough.

  45. “Although I would guess that DD is one of the top 30 soccer players in her age group in Seattle, I doubt it will help her chances of getting into a college.”

    If she’s still among the top 30 in her age group when she’s in HS, I’m pretty sure she will get recruited to play soccer in college.

    Even if she’s not at that level, her soccer ability could help her get into a college that needs players but can’t offer a scholarship.

  46. I kind of think that if your kid is slug-like, you may need to take away or sharply limit whatever media he is consuming (cause I am fairly certain he is not being a slug while reading challenging books, or drawing, or something else generative). This is easy for me to say, as my kids are little and I have absolute dictatorial powers over media consumption. I do think that if you want a kid (or an adult) to generate ideas/projects/art/writing, you need to remove distractions. I cannot check the Totebag when I need to do creative work at home.

    Continuing to take him to smart people and say, “be like him! be like her!” does not seem to be an effective strategy. I don’t think people want to help a kid consume things (“ooh, come look at all the cool stuff at my place!”) as much as they are willing to assist someone who is pursuing something meaningful.

    I think this is the iPad vs Raspberry Pi conversation that has come up before – consuming technology vs understanding it. And while website building is a skill which is (now) low-paid and easily outsourced (somewhat like basic lawyering/accounting), it does provide a good stepping stone for more creative and unique projects.

  47. “I noticed that 7th grade at my kids school had quite a few different team sports listed. However, I think that except for one or two sports – those teams will be filled with kids who have already taken those sports in elementary school. Am I wrong in thinking this ? or is there still opportunity for those who have never played those sports before ?”

    At my kids’ school, it varies quite a bit. Most of the girls’ sports teams, other than volleyball and soccer, which are extremely competitive, will take girls without any experience. E.g., one of DS’ friends decided she wanted to play basketball, never having played before, and played one year, then decided she didn’t like it enough to continue.

    There are more boys’ teams that are competitive and difficult to crack without already developed skills, but many of the teams have no-cut policies at that level. In some, like track, wrestling, football, and judo, all kids can be on the team and practice, but only the better kids at each event/weight class/position get to compete/suit up at meets/games.

  48. Oldest: tends to choose activities and they stick – so far art, dance and gymnastics dropped – what has stayed:
    Scouts (10th year)
    Band (6th year playing)
    Martial Arts (4th year – required her to try something when starting MS as PE and recess decreased significantly)
    Academic clubs/meets (6th year, but other than number sense the contests depended on what was offered at that grade level. As a freshman math = math, number sense, calculator and science. Looking at taking on Spanish.)
    Honor Societies (3rd year – NJHS 2 yrs in MS and now in 2 HS societies – math and music)

    Youngest: not sure I can count the things we tried in conjunction with after school care (garden club, art, science, etc.) that were a single 4-6 week session that once was enough. Currently:
    Scouts (8th year – but as interests have narrowed, this will take a different focus next year)
    Band (3 years – but not this year, however, wants to try a band camp this summer)
    Martial Arts (4th year – interest waning, but wants to reach a certain belt level, which should be by Sept. 1. That is looking more and more like a fixed end date as if it isn’t reached, it likely won’t ever be.)
    Academic meets (her school almost requires it, one area per year, usually doesn’t place)
    Basketball (3rd year on school team, but no interest in playing in any other league)
    Ceramics (a course this year in MS that has sparked an interest, not sure where that is going)

    The things that seem to translate to college applications are EC’s that allow you to provide examples of:
    1. persistence in an activity to gain more than just exposure to it and/or how you overcame a set back.
    2. leadership (preferably formal, such as an officer) in an activity
    3. service to show that you have a clue about the world around you
    4. some interest outside of being a student that shows you know how to operated in more than just the academic arena

  49. Milo,

    In terms of this group the cost in time and aggravation are likely far more important.

  50. It seems to me that many of the typical activities that require significant time and expense are non-school-affiliated sports. My siblings and I played sports all through middle school (school teams only), and my brother ran cross country in high school, but we were otherwise not super involved in organized sports which kept costs down. I preferred to keep active on my own (running mostly) because I was not a very gifted athlete. My parents also were not keen on activities that involved routine weekend participation (other than church related), so we had the occasional weekend or two devoted to a play dress rehearsal and performance or similar, but nothing that involved routine weekend commitments.

    Looking back, I feel like we all did tons of extracurriculars, but most were affiliated with the school and so did not involve significant expense. There was also a variety–some athletic, but also arts, academic, philanthropic.

  51. Rhett – I agree, and I expected the same. It’s just a comment that the thread goes right back to college admissions.

  52. Milo – I think we all care about value, and cost goes into that. My oldest might do a number of more intense summer camps if I thought they offered more value — but at $300/week when we don’t need the childcare, I can’t justify it.

    Speaking of cost – I am astonished how much sleep-away camp costs. Paying full price at Y camp is $800/week. Thirty-ish years ago, we paid $100/week for GS camp. The internets tell me that is $222 in 2015. Why the cost increase (even for the low-tech, no-frills camps?)

  53. I’d say that extracurricular activities are a part of a child’s education, but one that will not reliably be provided by the school. As others have noted, money spent on extracurrics is a poor investment if done purely to gain advantage and perhaps scholarship money for college, so really it’s a question of what the family can comfortably afford to give a kid some basic grounding in various arts/sports/skills as decided by the family’s and the kid’s interests and priorities.

    I do think there are many activities that are more readily learned as a child than as an adult, especially those for which beginning lessons are commonly offered to children. For instance, if you want to learn to swim, or start beginning ballet, or learn to play baseball at 30, you’re going to feel a bit awkward just starting out and may have a hard time finding adult beginner lessons, and if you do find you have a real talent and interest for it you’ll be limited in your ability to really pursue it to a serious level. But on the other hand, you can still learn that skill. And there are other activities less associated with children’s lessons that you could seek out as an adult without feeling so awkward — if you want to learn to kite surf or start beginning belly dance or learn Brazilian jiu jitsu you’re not likely to find yourself learning alongside a bunch of six year olds.

  54. To Milo’s point, in my view, the time commitment can become prohibitive well before the expense in many cases. Although the activities that are prohibitively expensive generally also require significant time.

    A friend of mine had her 18-month-old in a dance class. I don’t think it was particularly expensive but in my view that’s probably a bit of a waste of both time and money for a kid that young. I got the impression that she enrolled her because of what someone mentioned earlier–feeling like her daughter “should” be involved in activities.

  55. Here in Totebagland I’m starting to worry that if my oldest hasn’t tried a sport by second grade, it will be very hard to enjoy the sport when she starts.

    She gets very frustrated when her teammates can get a goal on the rec soccer team and she can’t. Already, several of her teammates’ parents are spending $2-3k/year on extra soccer lessons for first graders.

    I think it’s a bad bet if it’s intended to result in Ivy admission – they should try a much less played sport, like fencing, and try to get ranked. Same for musical instruments: harpsichord, not piano.

    She does four days a week of martial arts and one day of swimming. The younger two take swimming as well, for safety reasons.

    She would love to do dance, gymnastics or skating, but I won’t let her. All are very expensive here, and I don’t like the early sexualization of the girls I see at the modern dance recitals here we have attended with her friends.

  56. June, I would say that kids under about 6 are not going to actually learn whatever the activity is supposedly teaching, but the kids may still enjoy the class.

  57. Sky, classical ballet can have its own issues but oversexualization of little girls is not one of them. For what that’s worth. And I think you can find hula halau most anywhere in the country now — have you ever considered that? Or what about Irish dancing? Or whatever other dance forms are offered around your area?

  58. Ada – Part of the camp cost is that the cost of the staff have increased. GS camps in our area are $250-$400 per week depending on the age of the kids, the expertise needed for the staff, and equipment. We were recently at a private camp that the girls did – kayaking (requires, kayaks, life jackets, paddles, 1-2 instructors/lifeguards), 3 level high ropes course (the course itself, that is inspected, harnesses, ropes, helmets and had 4-5 staff – one on the ground and 1-2 on each level of the course), and a rock climbing wall/zip line (the wall/zip line itself, again inspected, different harnesses, ropes, and helmets, and had 4-5 staff – one attached to each climber, one at the top and one at the end of the zip line). That was 12 staff for the 3 activities that were running concurrently.

  59. Ice skating, dance, gymnastics, anything that involves a leotard is likely to be expensive, both for the show costumes and entry fees for competitions, which often involve travel.

    Ada, I agree that creating >mimicry. But to start out, I think it’s good to learn how to do the basic thing correctly, and then build from there, perhaps by working out a solution to a common issue.

    I wish I would’ve known about gymnastics earlier! The movements aren’t that different from what a kid would do, but thinking about body control & discipline are probably useful. I worry about girls’ body images in such pursuits, but below the elite level, I don’t think those issues are as dangerous for boys.

  60. Louise, if you know your kids might want to try out for something they have t done before, try finding a rec program at the Y or elsewhere for them to try it out first. Even if they don’t make the school team, they continue in the rec program & try out again next year.

  61. I’d say that extracurricular activities are a part of a child’s education, but one that will not reliably be provided by the school. ….I do think there are many activities that are more readily learned as a child than as an adult, especially those for which beginning lessons are commonly offered to children.

    HM +1

    Depending on the child the EC at school may not be of interest or appropriate to their level of ability. Most schools offer volleyball and if the girls want to play in HS, most of those girls are in leagues in elementary and on select teams in MS. It is very competitive here. Other sports, especially for girls, are not offered at school because of limited interest and/or cost. Instruments in school often don’t start until MS, but many kids have started instruments in 4th grade or sometimes earlier. The age trigger seems to be ability to read – to read the music – and ability to hold the instrument as many only come in one size. Strings seems to be the area where I see more “junior” sized instruments.

  62. Oddly, my concern about classical ballet is that she has the right physique and would be good at it. She is also a perfectionist with a strong family history of anorexia.

    So I’m pushing martial arts :)

    The Irish dance program is awesome but she’s not a fan of bagpipes. If I see a hula class, she can try that….

  63. S&M, I had a brother involved in competitive gymnastics. You have NO IDEA how expensive it is to compete at the level, the time and travel commitment, and the body image problems – FOR BOYS. I would never let any of my kids near gymnastics except at the “fun” preschool level.

  64. If there is family history of anorexia, stay away from classical ballet and gymnastics. The pressure in both to have a perfect body is relentless. And it is there for boys as well as girls

  65. I think you are smart to stay far away from dance with how you describe your daughter, Sky. Sounds a lot like a much younger version of my sister with anorexia. I ultimately blame genetics rather than ballet for her disorder, but ballet allowed it to become deeply entrenched and socially acceptable for a long time.

    Unless you’ve been exposed to the upper levels of classical ballet world, you have no idea how common ED behaviors are. Even more than the stereotypes suggest. The ballet schools talk a good game about encouraging good nutrition and healthy body image, but the girls realize pretty quickly that only the thinnest, smallest for their age girls get the praise and good parts. In my sister’s cohort over 50% developed a serious eating disorder. And they weren’t even the most elite group; only a few went on to dance in college or professionally.

    I remember my sister auditioned for a summer intensive program at a top ballet school. Someone accidentally left the assessment form in view of the kids and over half of it was about body type.

  66. HM, I totally agree that kids under 6 could enjoy a class/activity even if they aren’t learning particular skills. In my friend’s case, her daughter was not that into the class but my friend felt like she should be and it was a source of angst.

  67. There was a past thread about swim lessons as a must / life skill and I remember in that thread it came up how few kids of totebaggers could ride bikes.

    I put my DS in judo because it is close to our house (low time hassle) and because he needed a little boy energy outlet – he was trying to wrestle me all the time. Now my DH does it with him – with all ages around him, Honolulu Mother, and DH is both a student and helps the Sensei with the little kids.

  68. You could always google your town name + hula if you seriously consider that an option. Hula is as graceful a form as ballet but is not associated with body issues the same way. Or look at what other sort of dance lessons are offered that you could get her to. I can see your concern that she might be predisposed to go down a bad path with ballet, but if she wants to dance, I would suggest you find her a way she can do so that you can live with.

  69. SM – they do get the opportunity to try out popular sports at their elementary school PE class and with neighborhood friends. They also got to try sports at summer camp.
    Two popular ones basketball and football which I thought there would be interest in – so far no interest. Anyway coming up there are MS teams for volleyball, tennis, track etc.

  70. Agree with MM and Rio about the dangers of ballet/gymnastics at an at all serious level (basically beyond a certain age) being a breeding ground for eating disorders. My own background with disordered eating makes me very wary of these for future kids.

  71. An orthopedic surgeon of my acquaintance has mentioned that she sees a *lot* of ballet-related injuries. So there’s that too.

    But with my kids having left ballet around the point where the schedule was really ramping up and getting serious, I feel like it was definitely a worthwhile thing for them to have done and they got a lot out of it.

  72. 11, 9 or 10, and 8, respectively, for doing it seriously. The older two later went back and were doing a once a week adult beginner class (10+ was ok), which by “beginner” meant not en pointe/partnering rather than just starting out, until this year when it conflicted with chorus. They like it and may well do a class at that level again at some point either when their schedules free up or even in college/adulthood. The youngest (the one who left at 8) got the least dance training out of it although he’d actually done four Nutcrackers by then so he had quite a bit of the stage/performance aspect which he enjoyed.

  73. My daughter had recently gone on pointe when she quit. She could actually have gone back on pointe in the adult classes if she’d added a couple more times a week but that got back to the scheduling issues, and I wasn’t wild about having her back on pointe for both health and money reasons.

  74. I have to leave soon for pickup at dance. I drive a carpool with a bunch
    of other moms, and this is my week. We spend a lot of money on dance,
    BUt it is her favorite activity and she is talented. It is not going to
    get her into college, but she really loves it. I like that she meets
    people from other towns, and gets a decent amount of exercise. I did say
    no to any studio that was going to have dance competitions because it is so
    time consuming and beyond expensive. The cost comes from the classes,
    shows, costumes and dance shoes, leotards etc.

    My daughter plays three sports – soccer, softball, and basketball. She is
    in all of the rec leagues (no travel). Town or AYSO, so its
    very inexpensive since all of the people are volunteers. This is the first
    year that I really noticed that we had to spend a lot more on personal
    equipment for softball because she got much taller and she needed a new
    glove, bat, mask and gloves. She likes being with her friends and I think
    its great that she is learning about being part of a team. I bet these rec teams
    will only last until the end of 6th grade because everything becomes about
    modified sports and/or travel in our town once the kids enter 7th grade.

  75. ” I would say that kids under about 6 are not going to actually learn whatever the activity is supposedly teaching”

    You can find all kinds of videos on YouTube of 6yo kids playing Vivaldi concertos. We know several kids who were doing that.

  76. Am I unique here in steering kids toward certain activities in part for the peer groups?

  77. Leaving the college admissions discussion aside, I think extracurriculars can be really important in developing important teamwork/social skills. Over the longer term, the ability to work as part of a team, get along well with others, etc. is probably going to be more important to a Totebag kid’s success and happiness in life than getting an ‘A’ in calculus. And for kids who are academically gifted, it’s not always the worst thing to participate in an activity where the kid has to work hard to be only “average”.

  78. For my kids, martial arts were right there with swimming lessons as must-do. One of the first things they were taught in their judo classes was how to fall without getting hurt, which we thought was an important skill for them to learn at a young age.

  79. Rhett that charter school article was crazy. Although I do believe different kids learn best under different sets of circumstance, I know that would not have worked for either of mine. I do agree with her comment that the school is just trying to do what any Tiger parent would do, I also agree with the conclusion that the school is good at preparing them for tests. How that maps into anything else is unknown. I feel the same about extracurriculars. Some kids thrive on a packed schedule, and some need some quiet time after a full day at school. I’m Noy sure how quiet, introspective hobbies can be worked into a college app, but I think doing what works for the child matters more than how it will look on an application.

  80. How many of you consider what you can teach your kids and what you can’t as part of the decision? We don’t do Lego Robotics because we already do Mindstorms at home, for example. I’d like my kids to have piano lessons and would prefer to have someone else teach them, though I’m good enough to supervise practice. DS1 took an after school drawing class at his request last year- I can’t draw and there is no school art program. It cost ~$50 for 6 sessions with half a dozen kids in the class, which I consider moderate. Right now DS1 is in chess club after school at his request. Swimming happens at least a couple sessions a year for us and I’m looking into semi-private lessons, since all three boys are at roughly the same level and I could schedule an hour when it works for our family rather than be subject to the group lesson schedule. We do AYSO soccer this year and DS1 wants to try cub scouts.

    I do not expect any of these to affect college admissions, though I’m confident that our college aspirations (community college to state university) can be met without high level extracurriculars.

  81. To support MBT’s comment, my kids really enjoy having down time after school. I, too, enjoy not juggling multiple activities a week.

  82. “How many of you consider what you can teach your kids and what you can’t as part of the decision?”

    I’ve tried a little, but the parent-child dynamic often does not lend itself well to that.

    One kid who started violin with DS still takes lessons from DS’ teacher. That kid’s mom is a symphony musician who also teaches violin and is very active as a chamber coach, but she’s told me that he’s more receptive to learning from his teacher than from his mom.

  83. I read the charter school article today, while letting my kids misbehave. I am sure many kids thrive in the environment, and some kids really chafe. However, if my option was a school where 4% were reading at grade level, where kids were hitting other children without consequences, I would do it in a heartbeat.

    There is maybe a bigger, more interesting conversation here about the role of shame in motivating children. We have culturally moved to a place where it is never allowed. Perhaps that is why the Tiger Mom book seemed so transgressive.

    Without getting into details, a friend and I have both had bathroom related issues with one of our children. We have both wondered if the supportive stance (from us as well as the health care practitioners) play a roll in perpetuating the behavior — in the good old days, the kids would have been shamed about the behavior.

  84. WCE, you keep saying your aspirations are to CC and state U, and I’ll keep telling you that I think that’s too low for your kids.

    I fully expect them to be NMSF, or very close, and given the number you have, and what you’ve told us about your finances, it is quite likely that it will cost you less to send them to high-end private schools than to state U.

  85. My kid REFUSES to learn anything from me. I have tried to teach her swimming, sewing, jump rope, puppy-training, math. . .she insists that she needs a REAL teacher.

  86. @ WCE – I found a great private swim teacher who was willing to work with my schedule. Worth it with three close in age kids.
    @ Finn – for us, when we selected our kids school we by default selected a certain peer group. That peer group is mainly kids of other Totebaggy families.

  87. SWVA, have you looked into group piano lessons? DD started that way, with three other girls. It cost less than private lessons, and it might be more suitable for your DD.

  88. “she insists that she needs a REAL teacher”

    That’s what Mary Lou Retton’s daughter told her when she tried to offer some gymnastics advice. : )

  89. My daughter’s top extracurricular was musical theater/acting from 3rd grade through high school. She also did some kind of sports (little league, basketball) in elementary and middle school and played badminton in high school.

    My son played little league in elementary school, rowed all through high school and was in boy scouts from 5th grade through 11th.

    Both took lots of swimming and piano lessons beginning in early elementary school – through maybe 4th or 5th grade.

    Golf and rowing are two sports that don’t seem to have too many players in high school, so they are both likely to help with college admissions if your kids is good. As far as rowing is concerned, for the most part the boys don’t get scholarships but the girls do (due to Title IX).

  90. Finn, we know people at our income level and below sending their kids to private schools (Seattle Pacific/Gonzaga type schools) and they received modest scholarships but limited or no financial aid. Recall if my kids are not academically driven, they can live at home to attend community college/state university. I think the private schools are running double the cost of state university. The expected family contribution for any family with a 6 figure income seems high to me- I’m not willing to sacrifice activities, etc. for the younger kids so the older kid(s) can go to a more prestigious school. If any of my kids WANT to go to a prestigious private school, we’ll discuss the loans with them that they’ll need to take out.

  91. I’ve also mentioned this before, but I think that having an extracurricular activity that is not associated with school can be very helpful, especially in those tough middle school years. Having another group of friends can be a godsend.

  92. I can’t picture Mary Lou Retton as a mother, any more than I can imagine my kid learning from me (other than when he’s leading or absorbing what I’m doing, like with reading so many years ago).

  93. WCE,

    About that community college to state school idea. Is that real or an internet meme? From what I understand, in practice it’s nearly impossible to do in such a way that you actually save a significant amount of money.

  94. Rhett – It’s real in VA. I know at least one family from church with two kids who did community college and then transferred to William and Mary, which I’ve seen as a top-25 school in some lists. That’s a very good degree for about $50k, all in.

  95. Rhett, I did community college to state school and lots of my colleague’s kids have done AP/community college in high school and gone to state school. One then went to pharmacy school, a couple did/are doing PhD’s in engineering, one is starting an MD/PhD program, one stopped with a BS in biochemistry and took a job, and one went to law school and is in patent law. It seems totally doable to me.

    HM, that is a great and easy calculator! It’s still way more than our state school but might be worth it for Harvard. Given the odds, though, I can’t imagine my kids getting in. The Harvard kids I know are all people who loved school and did what they were supposed to from Day 1. Twin 2 just got a parental report for crawling under the table during reading. I gave him the “You need to behave so other people can learn” lecture. It might help if the class weren’t working on letters/letter sounds and doing work more consistent with where he’s reading.

  96. Whoops, children of multiple- not one- colleague. Though the guy with 9 children so far may wind up with a listing of his own like that…

  97. Rhett – It is not as easy and cheap as it used to be in California. DS’s high school counselor is no longer recommending that strategy to the kids. It is probably still a good idea in other states.

  98. I also just remembered one acquaintance who did two years at community college and then finished her degree at Stanford in linguistics in two years- and Stanford is hard to get into from community college.

  99. The community college to state university is a path that many UT and Texas A&M students take if they don’t make the class ranking cut.

  100. And regarding men’s gymnastics- the colleague whose son went to West Point this year is on the gymnastics team. West Point is one of the few colleges that still has a men’s gymnastics team and people with Olympic aspirations aim to go there.

  101. WCE, I once spent a week at Seattle Pacific and love their campus, but yeah, HM is right Of course, that does require that your kids be academically driven, but the high end privates currently meet full cost above EFC with grants, not loans.

    Recall our recent discussion of how Stanford doesn’t charge tuition to kids with HHE below $125k and assets below some level; I imagine those levels are even lower for kids from families with multiple kids in college.

  102. WCE, FWIW, I think your college plan is very reasonable. When the time comes, they can evaluate all offers, and who knows what might crop up? Our experience, and with two in college we’ve also watched a lot of families go through this process, is that the private colleges that “meet all of your demonstrated need loan free!” have a very different definition of need than we do. We’ve seen so many families disappointed when Davidson or Vandy tells them their “ability to pay” is the entirety of the second wage earner’s annual income and then some. It just isn’t what people expect at all. In one example, Dad made $150,000, Mom made $45,000, Totebag U you’ve all heard of told them they could afford $55,000 in yearly tuition.

  103. ” two years at community college and then finished her degree at Stanford in linguistics in two years- ”

    Foothill College?

    “and Stanford is hard to get into from community college.”

    Stanford is hard to get into, period. It has the lowest acceptance rate of any college in the US, which seems inconsistent with your point about CC being a viable strategy.

  104. I’m just not a Tiger Mom- I want to spend a lot more time talking with my kids about what outcomes their choices (spouse, major, extracurriculars, early jobs, willingness to move for a career) will have on their lives than my parents did and then try to let them make those decisions with information I never had. I’ve worked with several people with prestigious degrees and in most ways, their lives are much like mine. The two women I’ve worked with who have graduate degrees from MIT are both single and childless. I don’t know if they would have liked families or not. But I knew I wanted kids, and I obviously don’t do things halfway. :)

  105. but the high end privates currently meet full cost above EFC with grants, not loans.

    Recall our recent discussion of how Stanford doesn’t charge tuition to kids with HHE below $125k and assets below some level; I imagine those levels are even lower for kids from families with multiple kids in college

    You guys have not paid attention when WCE has revealed bits and pieces about income and, more importantly, current level of wealth and what can only be interpolated as rate of wealth accumulation. Their income will not be below $125k, and their assets will not be “below some level.”

    Outside of a school that is looking to buy a NMSF, their EFC will be full fare.

  106. “There is maybe a bigger, more interesting conversation here about the role of shame in motivating children. We have culturally moved to a place where it is never allowed.”

    Very intriguing observation. What do Totebag parents think about this?

  107. Milo,

    I sort of file community college to state school in the same bucket as MMM’s idea to ditch the car and use a bike with a trailer. Theoretically possible but filled with so many qualifiers and exclusions as to render it totally impractical.

  108. Very intriguing observation. What do Totebag parents think about this?

    Shame has its place in parenting and discipline. I don’t know about the school setting so much.

  109. Milo, you’re only half-right. If I’m employed, our household income will not be below $125k. But we won’t owe full-fare at a prestigious private school.

    The guy across the aisle reports that local State U offered $2500 to his above average (SAT M+V ~1150, GPA ~3.8) son, making the annual tuition cost $6-9k, depending on number of hours, college, honors program, etc.

  110. I advise students all the time who have transferred from CC. It is pretty difficult to do if you are in a technical field unless you went to a CC with an articulation agreement with the desired university IN THE DESIRED major. I cannot stress that enough. Just because you know someone who transferred from XYZ CC to the state flagship as a communications major does not mean that you will be able to do the same in engineering and get out in 4 years. If you do try to transfer with a technical major, be prepared to never sleep your final two years, since all your difficult technical subjects will be backloaded into those two years. And don’t even think about changing majors!!!

  111. When I discovered that a year at our state flagship university, the one with excellent engineering and CS programs, cost less than we were paying to the daycare the last year DD was there, I kind of relaxed about all this. If DS1 could get his GPA up a little, he might even qualify for a teeny scholarship

  112. Even if the WCE HH income is above $125k, the WCE kids (emphasis on plural) could still get significant financial aid. I believe that $125k number applies for a kid that is the only kid in college at the time.

    The WCE household could also suppress their applicable asset level by paying off their mortgage and maxing out on all retirement account contributions.

    Perhaps the first WCE kid might pay full fare initially, but subsequent sibs probably would not, and 1st kid fare would also drop when others enter college.

  113. @ Rio – I went to a school where if there was misbehavior the kid or kids had to stand up and in front of the whole class what you had done and the punishment was broadcast. There was no hiding. About grades – those were private. However everyone generally knew the ten top ranked students.
    I read the charter school article. I understand the situation of trying to raise standards but I totally detest having kids in a pressure cooker test taking mode all the time.

  114. “The WCE household could also suppress their applicable asset level by paying off their mortgage and maxing out on all retirement account contributions.”

    They already did, several years ago. (I just checked my file :-) )

  115. But let’s make the point that paying off your mortgage in a low COLA area leaves your assets subject to EFC at 5% per year of college for any kid. Living somewhere with high housing prices means those same assets are protected, because they are your residence. Remember the house I posted in Kansas a few days ago for ~$30k- that came from a discussion with two rural Kansas engineers (one an engineering professor) about how living there meant you couldn’t afford to move anywhere else in retirement. We were discussing being the “sandwich” generation and affording our kids’ college and our parents’ needs.

    We tithe, Milo, so our rate of asset accumulation is not what you suspect.

  116. I wonder if it could make sense to buy a $2 million house for the period of time that your kids are attending college.

  117. There’s a coastal town nearby where some wealthy people have homes. We would do well to buy a residence, have Mr WCE retire early and live on my part-time income with insurance subsidized by the ACA.

  118. Your husband and me both. We could retire to the lake, and pay our bills and buy gas for the boat with my wife’s income. It’s no wonder that labor force participation is so low these days.

  119. Shaming has no place in my parenting or in schools. Seeing as a huge part of DE’s behavior issues were the outgrowth of bullying that led him to hurt himself, and that he had a really hard time (as in ripping up his paper, breaking pencils, hiding under the desk) admitting to himself that he had gotten something wrong, I do not believe any teacher would have been able to deal with the results of publicly shaming him. I’m glad that those days seem to be behind us, but still see no reason for shaming my child. Far better to appeal to reason.

  120. I think that charter school sounds like a much better alternative than the options most of those kids have. I’ve seen what the behavior is like in some low-income schools and there’s simply no way that the kids are in any position to learn with the amount of chaos in those classrooms. A portion of ill-behaved children are allowed to ruin it for everyone else. Sure some of the tactics at the charter are less than ideal. But I think most of those kids are probably far better off dealing with the embarrassment of the “red zone” than ending up a 16 year old parent, in prison, and/or illiterate. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  121. Finn, they paid full freight less the NMSF award at Totebag U, because the student only applied to similar private, selective, but non-ivy, colleges. Basically the mom worked for tuition, which isn’t a bad plan if it IS your plan. They were just shocked that it turned out that way. The family would have been better off trying for an Ivy and also the flagship state U, where a full ride would have been possible if not likely. Lesson learned by the next kid, but expensive for the first.

  122. Reason and shame are not mutually exclusive. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself for your behavior. I am very disappointed because that is not what we expect in this family” appeals to both.

  123. But let’s make the point that paying off your mortgage in a low COLA area leaves your assets subject to EFC at 5% per year of college for any kid. Living somewhere with high housing prices means those same assets are protected, because they are your residence.

    And of course no system you can come up with addresses the underlying problem, college cost inflation. Really it’s kinda nuts that the Totebag crowd with our generally solid financial situations and savings is fretting about financial aid and scholarships at all, but when $25K a year represents a bargain and full freight can go north of $60K, very few families will be in a position to tell each of several children, “Wherever you can get in, we can pay for it.”

    Note the numbers given in this article, already several years old: http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveodland/2012/03/24/college-costs-are-soaring/

  124. Milo – I totally agree. There was an article I read a year or two back (maybe wsj ?) that listed all of the various vice-presidents and associate deans at one of the UC’s – it sounded like a joke, but sadly, was not!

  125. Saac — how does one get a child to stop picking their nose, if not for shame? I can’t come up with any other good arguments.

  126. I agree with those that have posted that CC to state flagship is very viable. My daughter’s roommate went that path for nursing, and several children of colleagues have done the same. If you’re a student footing the bill yourself, it’s a very sensible path. And at the end of the day, your degree is from the school that you want.

  127. Oh, and the lady who cuts my hair (usually) has a daughter at the community college, and she’s preparing to transfer to a state school to complete her nursing program. I got the impression that it was a program with a defined path from start to finish, including the transfer.

  128. My point is that it is easy to say that “shame has no place” – and in general, that is true. It is probably not the most effective way of getting kids to improve their spelling. However, shame has a place in enforcing norms, and may not always have an alternative (especially enforcing hygiene). Clearly, some parents think it has a place in enforcing homework and violin practice (Amy Chua comes to mind.)

  129. Milo,

    In WCE’s example going the CC state school route saved 9k over five years. So, how much do you figure the bursting student is going to end up saving?

  130. In the article about the increased costs of administration, regulatory/legal compliance is an increasing cost for businesses, health care, universities, etc. Oregon has lots of legal referenda and rarely is the cost of compliance with a law considered in the arguments for or against it.

    Colleges are also admitting students who require more support. In my day, students were expected to look at the paper catalog and develop a viable degree plan. My math adviser friend commented to me that if you can’t figure out how a particular grade in your summer math class will affect your GPA, you probably shouldn’t be a math major. :) International students require a lot of support not only for academics but for culture and language issues. Mental health services at the local State U is an area of focus and they just added some “addiction services” personnel to address the complaints of constant drunken parties in the walkable neighborhoods around campus.

    Can anyone around during the Vietnam era comment about whether the draft reduced the expectation that college students have their s*&t together?

  131. Rhett, I think the real savings from community college are from room and board. I did the equivalent of a year of community college (I agree with Mooshi that 2 years is not reasonable with a technical major) which saves a year of room and board. Locally, you can dual enroll at the State U and community college and take the courses offered by the community college there and the courses only offered at State U there. Now if only the Buick Century can keep making the track between the community college and the state university for a long time…

  132. A Buick Century has no business competing on a track. It may make the “trek,” however.

    (Couldn’t resist the Finn response.)

  133. “WCE’s example going the CC state school route saved 9k over five years. ”

    I think the typical savings would be about $20k per year of CC vs the state school, so $40k for two years, equal to about $70k in pretax marginal income from the secondary earner.

  134. WCE,

    Depends on the commute. The $11,500 per year in room and board at U of Oregon converts to ~20,000 miles at the surprisingly accurate IRS mileage rate of $0.56.

  135. Savings depends on which community college campus the course is offered at and whether it’s 1-2 miles or ~12 miles from the State U. There’s also a bus, but the infrequent service can be problematic. Mileage costs depend on how you view the depreciation on a semi-reliable older car, a car adequate to commute between college campuses but which you would not use to travel on logging roads in eastern Oregon.

  136. Ada, hygiene is pretty easy to explain. I bet you probably even have examples of what happens when people don’t have good hygiene. My guy gets nosebleeds every once in a while, so picking his nose has always been rare.

  137. Milo, tuition, room and board are $23k. At our state school, fees for honors courses and engineering school are extra. And they are changing the “full-time tuition cost” to be per credit hour no matter what, where it used to be fixed for students taking over 12 credit hours. I saved money by taking 18+ semester hours as an undergrad.

  138. WCE,

    Let’s says it’s 5k add in food and you’re saving what $3,500? Is it worth even thinking about?

  139. They can live at home and get a part-time job as food servers at the sorority and take the leftovers home, like my brother did. :)

  140. If you’re going the CC/state U route to control costs, some other things you could also do include taking a lot of AP classes (and passing the AP exams), or attend CC or state U during HS and getting both HS and CC credit for classes taken.

    I did the latter for a couple of CC classes during HS, and DW took a bunch of CC calculus classes while she was in HS.

    Here, a lot of kids save on room/board costs by commuting to flagship U, to the point that traffic is significantly worse when flagship U is in session.

  141. “how does one get a child to stop picking their nose”

    I’d not make a big deal out of it. The kid will grow out of it. There might be some small hygiene issues, but nothing major. DS2 sucked his fingers until 5th grade. He stopped by himself. No shame, no blame.

    I’m a big fan of picking your battles.

  142. I would venture a guess that there was some shaming that stopped DS from sucking fingers — it just may not have come from parents/home.

    I am not battling on the nose-picking. Just embarrassed by it. And it is a hygiene issue only in the way that having snot on your fingers is not good for those around you. My point is that there are some behaviors that are controlled by societal pressure – the debate is which one are appropriate to treat that way (standardized match scores? passing gas in crowded spaces?).

  143. Are we really so confident (or self-delusional) that all of our collective obsession with getting the right grades to take Calculus, and preparing to be competitive for the NMSF, and whatever pressure and coercion we might apply when something is coming up short in those areas, really does not amount to shaming in some form? I don’t believe it. Maybe it’s not as blatant as Chua proudly announces, but it’s there just the same.

  144. Shaming occurs all the time. Some punk told my DS in pre-K that Thomas the Tank Engine was for babies. *boom* No more Thomas. I miss Thomas. This happened 9 years ago, and I’m still bitter.

  145. But you can’t pick your battle’s nose. Finn, I almost posted the same thing.

  146. I would estimate the savings here for choosing a year of CC to be around $11k. There is a defined path to go two years then transfer for many majors, with GPA requirements, but I know of a number of kids who transferred after a year. But if that translates to $11k less in student loans per year for two years, that is essentially a first car.

  147. Milo, to those tuition numbers you’ll need to add at least $2k per year for books, $12k or so for room and board, and if your girls go the sorority route another couple of K for that. If they get cars to take to school, there is that expense as well.

  148. I was thinking of the ancestors of the Buick Century travelling rural roads, carrying moonshine…..I have been to the NASCAR Hall of Fame way too many times.

  149. Milo, really, you know all of our parenting styles that you can speak for all of us with such a broad statement? There is shaming/pressure applied to my kid, but I really don’t think it comes from me. I knew he’d get grief for loving link, was sad for him when he quit wearing it–and was glad when he wore the pink socks with jelly beans on them to school today. When he got a little robots guy in his stocking, one that folds up into a compact cube, my mom immediately declared it a puzzle and challenged him to do it. I told him later I was sorry that had happened, and we tried to restore the little guy to playful innocence. Applying pressure or shaming is simply counter-productive, even if you find it indispensable.

  150. Houston, I’m with you on Thomas!
    Ada, matters of other peoples’ comfort or health can be presented as simply that, no shame involved.

  151. really, you know all of our parenting styles that you can speak for all of us with such a broad statement?

    Yes. You read this for enough years, and you can get a reasonably good general picture.

  152. I would estimate the savings here for choosing a year of CC to be around $11k.

    So, less than a fifth what you were paying for infant day care 18 years ago when you were making 70% less?

    Seriosuly, is that based on a parental income level where $11k is basically immaterial?

  153. So, less than a fifth what you were paying for infant day care 18 years ago when you were making 70% less?

    People are paying $55k for infant day care?

  154. “I would estimate the savings here for choosing a year of CC to be around $11k.”

    I would think the savings are highly variable. One key factor would be the difference between CC tuition and state U tuition.

    Also, what state U charges for room and board (or what is paid for off-campus housing and food) must be offset by the cost of feeding the student at home, commuting costs, and housing costs at home (e.g., higher utility bills)

    Commuting costs could be quite high if they include auto insurance premiums on a car for which the primary driver is a teenager.

  155. I should have added the qualifier that the savings assumes commuting to CC and living at state U.

    For some, commuting to state U is an option, and there the CC cost savings would pretty much just be tuition difference and commute cost difference.

  156. So many things to comment on here.

    For extracurricular, my kids tried a lot of things – baseball, soccer, basketball, all on a rec level. My DD did rec league gymnastics, and was asked to join the travel team at age 7. She absolutely loved gymnastics, and was seen by the coaches as having great potential. We said no, as it would mean practices 3x week for 4 hours/day, and meets on weekends (plus travel costs and meet fees.) I didn’t want to spend the money, and didn’t want to be away from the rest of the family that much. She was greatly disappointed, but eventually (mostly) got over it. She later took some tumbling-only classes, and transitioned into high school diving (cost was $30 for the swimsuit and a $25 school activity fee.) Many, many high school divers are ex-gymnasts.

    My pet peeve is when parents say, “Everyone is doing it, my child loves it, we don’t have a choice.” You damn well have a choice, and you need to own that. If it doesn’t meet with your family values, say no to your kid. If it does meet with your values, be willing to say so. Don’t act as if you’re powerless.

    As for the price of college, I was listening to my SIL complain about the high cost of college the other night. My brother works at a small private university, and they have an exchange program such that her son would only have to pay about $6000 in tuition, along with $10K room and board (on the low side of typical, from what I’ve seen.)

    They bring in, I’m guessing, mid-six figures and currently pay on the order of $3-4000 for travel soccer. I’ll grant that $16K for college is a lot coming out of current cash flow, but did they not save *at all*? Both are college-educated; they would have said from very early on that college was a goal for their children. I guess I would have expected them to be better prepared.

  157. Finn, my estimate was based on our local CC and what I paid in tuition/room and board and A&M.

    Rhett, $11K is more than I paid per year for infant care back in the day (not by much, but still more). $11K certainly matters in my budget, but not so much that I would force my child to that route. I do think there’s value in going off to school, and I think the peer group at a four year school is better/more committed. BUT – my point earlier was for students who are paying their own way (which is a much, much larger percentage of children among my colleagues, including VP level, than I would have expected), saving $11K – $22K off the total indebtedness is a pretty significant savings.

  158. Hoosier, if they’re making mid-six-figures you’d think coming up with $16K/year out of current cash flow would be duck soup. That is odd.

  159. $16k/year is less that a lot of people are paying for private school tuition.

    BTW, what’s mid-six figures? Around $500k? How would $16k be a problem?

  160. And at $150K/yr they’re taking home a paltry $8K/month, so after paying $1.25K in college tuition and room and board that leaves them a mere $5,750 to live on.

  161. Even if they’re pulling in $150k, and extra $12k to $13k (assuming they stop paying for travel soccer when kid goes to college) should be manageable out of cash flow, especially when you consider the tax credits they could get to partially offset that.

    If it’s not, then IMO they’ve got some financial management problems.

    OTOH, if they can’t afford that, he can go to CC. 4 years of travel soccer money will pay about one year at the 4-year CC, and he can pay for the rest with part time and summer jobs.

  162. HM, I think that would be $6750. But don’t forget, they won’t need to pay for travel soccer any more, and their grocery and utility bills might go down by a couple hundred or so per month. And they can get tax credits if they pay his college expenses.

  163. Geeze, only Monday afternoon and already I can’t subtract. Thanks for the correction, Finn.

  164. My daughter plays three sports – soccer, softball, and basketball. She is in all of the rec leagues (no travel). Town or AYSO, so its very inexpensive since all of the people are volunteers.

    Our experience is that decent rec elagues are still expensive. For this spring, we paid $335 for softball (includes the uniform at least) and $250 for baseball (uniform is about $75 extra). Of course this is still a lot less than competitive leagues or travel ball, but it’s definitely not inexpensive.

    The only sports we’ve found that I consider cheap were through the Y, and the kids didn’t get a whole lot out of them, IMO. For example, in basketball they had one one-hour practice a week and one game a week, and everyone sat out half the games because there were 10 players on the teams.

  165. Like MBT, I think there’s value in going away to school, especially here, where the CC/State U route is practically a continuation of high school. I would also pay more for sufficient course offerings and a good internship/placement office. My role model sent her sons to Texas A&M on an out-of-state tuition waiver then one to Berkeley. She and her husband are fixing up a ramshackle house there that would be a teardown in any other state for him to live in during grad school- affordable, convenient housing near the university is a huge challenge. I’ll have to see how mature my kids are at 18.

  166. Rhett – I agree, and I expected the same. It’s just a comment that the thread goes right back to college admissions.

    Well, Rhett made the first comment and it was about college admissions, so that kind of set the tone :)

  167. milo @ 601:
    I am one of those administrators. We are a results measure. The process reason goes back to when we the people decided it would be a good idea to flood the pockets of college students with guaranteed student loans, meaning there were more education-specific dollars chasing a scarce good. So colleges then had and, frankly, still have pricing power. Those incremental $$ were spent on more classrooms/labs/dorms to accommodate more students. But to create or keep things like offices of “student success” to help students who just might not really be ready for college stay in college and not flunk out. The people who do that are part of “the administrators”.

    A(nother) case of the law of unintended consequences. The guaranteed student loan program was conceived as a way for many who would not otherwise have been able to attend college. Fine. And many, many people have properly benefitted. But quite literally the price ‘we’ (the people) are now paying is college tuitions for privates and as out-of-staters at state schools in the $40-$50k list price range. Discounts for need, and for special skills apply at many, but not all, schools.

  168. OTOH, if they can’t afford that, he can go to CC.

    But, if they can’t afford it the math changes. The only way your theory works is of the parents can easily cash flow it but chose not to. Which I have seen happen. And with really good, hard working, successful kids.

  169. Sorry, should have been more clear. When I said mid-six figures, I meant $150K-ish, as others inferred. I, too, don’t understand why they are griping about $16K a year. Seems like an entirely reasonable amount to me, for what they’re getting.

    We’re in a rural area with virtually no private schools (other a few religious ones) so there has been very little outlay for education thus far (public school K-12). SIL was a SAHM until kids hit elementary school, so no daycare costs either. I can only assume it’s sticker shock (though with my brother in academia, it should not have come as a surprise.)

  170. But quite literally the price ‘we’ (the people) are now paying is college tuitions for privates and as out-of-staters at state schools in the $40-$50k list price range.

    Is it that high? The median college student graduates $25k in debt. So, if $50k is the number, the median parent is borrowing and cash-flowing $175k. I do t think that’s true.

  171. “But, if they can’t afford it the math changes.”

    My math assumed only that they can afford what they’re already spending ($3k to $4k for travel soccer). Beyond that, it can come from cash flow, savings, or the kid can get a job and/or take out loans and/or try for financial aid.

  172. I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm or not when this group says “only” $6750/month to live on.

    Hoosier, that’s when my kid was done with gymnastics. He hung on at the 2 hrs 2x a week for over a year, but then he saw more kids move on without him–he was asked to move up both times, but didn’t want the huge time commitment. I think it was the right choice for him.

    Here’s an analysis of an article we discussed recently, about quantity of parental time with kids. http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/social-mobility-memos/posts/2015/04/02-maternal-time-children-kalil-mayer?cid=00900015020149101US0001-0406

  173. Saac, keep in mind most people here have families larger than yours and high savings goals. If out of that $6,750 you are trying to put away a couple thousand in savings, a couple thousand in housing and property taxes, at least 1500 in food, utilities, etc, maybe one or two car payments if you have 4-5 drivers, car insurance and gas for a houseful of teens plus commuting parents, activities for multiple kids, family vacations, braces or whatever other medical costs — that $6750 is not going to stretch that far.

  174. MBT, thanks. I was assuming “taking home $x.xx”‘ meant after automatic transfers to savings. If it doesn’t then, yeah, I can see that for a family 2 or 3 times as big as ours, it could get tight.

  175. Thanks, HM. I wasn’t sure either. I immediately thought, “Is that $5750 before or after family health insurance?”

  176. Greetings from the [for me] Motherland. DH and I found this quaint little English chapel for Easter services. #WestminsterAbbey. Surreal for anyone perhaps but certainly for someone who grew up in a Commonwealth country. After communion, I stood on the CS Lewis memorial stone to wait for him (it’s part of the floor – I wasn’t climbing on it!) and just about lost it. I wasn’t expecting to be as moved as I have been about seeing all these places I’ve spent my life hearing about. I knew it would be fantastic, but completely failed to expect the emotion. Where I’m from, every single thing is named after something here. I mean, I grew up in a city called Stratford, on the Avon river, and went to Falstaff school for elem and Juliet for MS, for goodness sake. I’m a little worried about how I might be when we walk over to 10 Downing Street later today. That black door might be the end of me.

  177. @ Risley – enjoy your trip !

    “The only way your theory works is of the parents can easily cash flow it but chose not to”

    Anecdotally, from what I’ve heard the reason they choose not to is lack of retirement savings. From what I observe, in the early years many families spend almost all of their income. “No” is rarely used – be it trying out various activities for the kids, taking vacations, buying a lot of stuff. College expense is something that hits the radar when the kids are in their junior year. Then, there is sticker shock that even state schools cost so much. At the same time by then, people are approaching or are in their 50s and realize that they need to save for retirement, so in comes the student loans. Suddenly, a student who hasn’t worked or been told that they have to contribute is working a job to help with the bills. This isn’t a bad thing but from what I’ve seen the change is drastic. It seems that 18 years is the magic number when all of a sudden parents wake up and decide that the spigot must be turned off.

  178. The mayor of NYC is complaining about the high cost of college for his kids and says that he will have to apply for financial aid. Never mind that he makes north of $200,00 a year and gets housing on top of that. He can afford to take his family on a trip to Italy, but can’t afford the high cost of an Ivy league college. Incredible!
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/08/nyregion/a-new-challenge-for-mayor-bill-de-blasio-paying-for-2-children-in-college.html

  179. Sheep,

    He can afford to take his family on a trip to Italy, but can’t afford the high cost of an Ivy league college.

    Where did he say he couldn’t afford it? He said it would be a challenge. With $2.8 million in Park Slope real estate, I think his issue is the same as Meme’s friend and their inherited 7 figure Block Island cottage.

  180. In addition to the $200k salary and free housing, they have $110k in rental income, although the article seemed to imply that at least one of the properties is not owned outright:

    That additional income, however, might be offset: On his tax return last year, for instance, Mr. de Blasio declared a $6,493 loss on one house after accounting for mortgage costs, depreciation and other expenses

    OTOH, the way the reporters note a standard and expected tax deduction for rental property depreciation indicates that they don’t really grasp what they’re writing about.

    It would have been interesting to watch if the Clintons received financial aid from Stanford (if college costs had been as high at the time). The Presidential salary was stil only $200k at the time, I think unchanged from the Nixon Administration.

  181. I just had a chance to catch up on comments.

    “I wonder if it could make sense to buy a $2 million house for the period of time that your kids are attending college.”

    If you’re thinking of using real estate to shelter assets, you should know that most selective private colleges use the CSS Profile for determining need, and thus will count some of your home equity.

    How is home equity treated for college financial aid?

  182. Savings by going the community college route will be variable depending on the cost of the target 4-year school, among other things.  Also bear in mind that one reason this route is not often successful is that many CC students graduate from high school unprepared to do college-level work, so this skews reported results.  Also, as mentioned, the success also varies among states; Virginia is probably better than California for this strategy.

    Virginia offers guaranteed admissions to universities for certain community college graduates

  183. “Colleges are also admitting students who require more support.”

    The government is throwing more taxpayer money at students who require more support. FTFY

    This goes back to Fred’s comment about the unintended consequences of the federal student loan program. Distributing taxpayer money to colleges with minimal underwriting is bound to inflate costs.

  184. CoC,

    What does guaranteed admission mean? If I got a 2.0 in high school but managed a 3.4 in community college and didn’t get any Cs, I’m guarenteed admission to UVA?

  185. Milo, maybe now you’ll be jealous of me because I was born into a family tradition of modified stock car racing. My family owned a very successful track for several years, and in my early driving days I almost lost my license from the delusional belief that the freeway was a good place to practice high speed skills!

  186. CoC – Interesting. I’m always amused at the stories of NASCAR drivers forgetting that they’re on civilian roads and giving a gentle bump to slow cars in front of them:

    Bump-drafting, a practice of rear-ending the lead car to push it through, has become a big story heading into last Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR was so concerned about the aggressive driving it has created no-bumping zones in the corners to reduce the risk of an accident.

    For Richard Petty, bump-drafting already has proven costly. It cost him an election.

    He was cited for bumping a car from behind Sept. 11, 1996, on Interstate 85 after it wouldn’t move out of the left lane. The ticket came when Petty was running for North Carolina’s Secretary of State.

    A friend and I once did the fantasy experience and drove 12 laps at Richmond International.

  187. Not even. No grades BELOW a ‘C.’

    That can’t be how it works, can it? Sure seems a lot easier than killing yourself in high school with grades and activities and SAT prep, etc.

  188. Sure seems a lot easier than killing yourself in high school with grades and activities and SAT prep, etc.

    I’m kind of thinking the same thing. We’ll continue to encourage good academic habits, of course, but this is just one more reason why I can’t get too worked up about this stuff.

  189. He was cited for bumping a car from behind Sept. 11, 1996, on Interstate 85 after it wouldn’t move out of the left lane.

    He’d have got my vote and a generous campaign contribution.

  190. New York’s state university system has a similar guaranteed admission policy from certain community colleges.  I actually first learned about it from homeschoolers.  However, as MM says, for certain STEM majors it becomes more complicated.

    SUNY Transfer Policies

    One down side is that students miss out on the first two years experience at the 4-year school.

  191. Interesting conversation that I missed. Just one thing about that article claiming that the entire reason tuition has gone up is because of administrators… The article has been picked apart pretty carefully at the Chronicle, and one small problem – their figures are wrong. Per student spending HAS gone down. Yes, it is true that states are spending more, but the number of students has gone up too.
    http://blog.metrotrends.org/2015/04/declining-state-expenditures-public-universities-are-driving-tuition-increases/

    Of course, this is what is happening at public universities. Privates, which form what is essentially a privatized voucher system of the ilk favored by conservatives for K12, have descended into an arms race of amenities to attract students. One of the big reasons for all those administrators is that they administer all the “student life” services, which is everything ranging from advising to Greek life to the meal plan to sports to party abroad. If we ever, god forbid, went to a privatized voucher system for K12, I predict the same thing will happen there.

  192. On the topic of less prepared students costing more to educate… I think that is a no-brainer. From yet another article in the Chronicle on successful ways to get students through community college:
    “Q. Isn’t all of the extra advising and support prohibitively expensive, given declining public support and the pressure on colleges to cut costs?
    A. We recognize this is going to cost more. The City University of New York’s highly-successful ASAP program costs about 30 to 35 percent more per student. ”
    http://chronicle.com/article/A-Simpler-Path-Authors-Say/229133/

  193. CoC, back when I was in HS, my state flagship was essentially open admissions. Anyone who had graduated with a degree from an HS in the state could go. As a result, they spent a lot of time and energy on remedial ed, and finally imposed stronger admissions standards. I think there was a lot of push for open admissions in the 60’s and 70’s – that is also when CUNY went open admissions. So this has been a problem for a long time

  194. One of the things to consider when deciding if your kid should go to CC first is the effect of the peer group. Many CC’s have an abysmal completion rate, and while there may be good reasons for that (lots of transfers, for example), there are also possibly bad reasons. Will your kid be able to succeed in an environment where most students are kind of dropping in and out?

    And as I keep saying, check for a CC with an artiuculation agreement for your kid’s desired major, with your kid’s desired 4 year school.

  195. CoC -we have relatives in the racecar business. My BIL has a home business selling to the racecar industry, and his brother is a driver. So a little thing in common…

  196. My BIL has been pulled over for speeding many times. He thinks the Sprain Brook Pkwy is a great place to do 100 mph. Keep in mind, he is an older guy too, not a reckless 20 something.

  197. While I believe that the NYT writer mistakenly failed to point out that per student spending had decreased, I disagree that his figures are wrong. The story, IMO, is more of a situation where taxpayers have struggled to increase funding for a higher education system that has opened up to admit anyone who has a pulse.

    “One of the big reasons for all those administrators is that they administer all the “student life” services, which is everything ranging from advising to Greek life to the meal plan to sports to party abroad. If we ever, god forbid, went to a privatized voucher system for K12, I predict the same thing will happen there.”

    But I suspect there will still be parents willing to spend their voucher money on shaming schools like Success Academy that produce competent graduates. I still think choice is better.

  198. Since my kids’ college stories, both admissions and financial aid, are out of date, I rarely make detailed comments on this topic. Also, to be completely honest, from my perspective they are a lot like earnest baby poop discussions in a group of mostly first time parents – the experienced mom tends to zone out during those as the price of admission to the local circle of friends.

    However, I did want to say something about Stanford during the Chelsea days. At that time I had a middle class (not UMC) wage income, put 15% into 401k (starting from zero), negative net assets, no house, a car payment, very modest child support with no tuition contribution, and two kids in college at once plus two more still at home. (Dad was not working for two of those years, but his parents kept up the payments – all prior in law transgressions were wiped away). Almost all kids live in campus housing with a meal plan for four years. Kid was highly recruited and got about 60% of total costs in grants. I borrowed 10K, she borrowed 15K (subsidized govt loans – I capped all kid borrowing at that amount), she worked term time at Jamba Juice, as an A/P clerk, summers as researcher, Vineyard waitress, hedge fund intern – the last for big money. She came home twice a year via Ohio because her dad had mega miles on Midwest Air. She took a popular course on social class in which the kids had to choose a quadrant – middle class was not an option. She was in the second to bottom – people on welfare or rural poor were in the bottom 5%. People with significant non athletic scholarships were deemed lower middle – maybe 30% . Totebag types with little to no financial aid but with all the accoutrements of homes, retirement, good cash flow were upper middle – 60%. And 5% were rich. Chelsea would have, at the time, been in the vast UMC category without scholarships – but recall her mom described their financial situation as “dead broke” when they left the White House. We all justifiably roll our eyes at that statement, but believe me, it takes a lot of self control to keep the eyes steady during the typical UMC gripefest about college costs, or the wiping out of the second income, or profligate neighbors who get financial aid. In our family today, my niece, a lovely but no more than Lake Wobegon above average student with no particular field of study in mind, is a junior. All of us are trying our best to convince Mom (Dad is already on board) to steer her to flagship in the quiet dorm for undergrad – save the extra set aside funds (which are coming out of a life insurance product purchased as a savings vehicle) to support her in grad school when she figures out what she needs to do.

  199. Rhett – (your 1025pm comment):

    Note I said LIST PRICE. Many/most students are paying much less due to discounting… uhh, ‘scholarships’.

    But it’s the list price number that sends the general populace into a tizzy since most people lack understanding of how college tuition pricing works. Just picking Gonzaga because it was mentioned earlier, for 2013-2014:
    Tuition Revenue (= # of students X list price of ~$34,000) = $216.7M
    Student Aid (aka scholarships or discounts) = $77.8M
    Net Tuition $138.9M or 64% of list….so the average student gets a 36% discount off of list…it’s the same number at Emory.

    Similar for similar schools. Some places approach an average 50% discount, others (USC is 25%) are much lower than Gonzaga. But the NET TUITION PER STUDENT, a metric the ratings agencies use, is remarkably in a pretty tight range everywhere. (Does not apply to state schools because of the overall taxpayer subsidy provided to state systems).

    Another unintended consequence of this kind of opaque pricing structure is that many poor $$ but qualified academically students way undershoot when applying to colleges…they could get in, succeed, and afford many very good schools but their/their parents’ understanding of how things work dissuades them from even trying. Many HS guidance offices don’t help, either.

  200. their figures are wrong. Per student spending HAS gone down.

    Their figures are not wrong. The NYT author absolutely pointed that out, and very clearly acknowledges that per-student spending is down:

    It is disingenuous to call a large increase in public spending a “cut,” as some university administrators do, because a huge programmatic expansion features somewhat lower per capita subsidies. Suppose that since 1990 the government had doubled the number of military bases, while spending slightly less per base. A claim that funding for military bases was down, even though in fact such funding had nearly doubled, would properly be met with derision.

  201. The author barely noted it, and then went on to base the entire article on overall state spending. But really, the important number is the per-student number since, that determines what each individual student will end up paying.

  202. And the blog post I referenced above even disputes the idea that state expenditures are up
    “But the facts are clear. After adjusting for inflation, state appropriations per student were 18 percent lower in 2013-14 than they were thirty years earlier, and 29 percent lower than their peak in 1988-89. Over the past decade, state funding per student declined by 14 percent.”

  203. “But the facts are clear. After adjusting for inflation, state appropriations per student were 18 percent lower in 2013-14 than they were thirty years earlier, and 29 percent lower than their peak in 1988-89. Over the past decade, state funding per student declined by 14 percent.”

    So then it would be reasonable to assume that total costs per student should have only risen by corresponding amounts, right? But they haven’t; they’ve risen much more steeply, and that’s the problem. Tuition should be 18% higher, adjusted for in inflation, than it was in 1983.

  204. As a side note, I don’t want my kids to go to community college – I want them to have the 4 year college experience. Granted, I am basing this on my college experience. :)

  205. The blog post goes on to say
    “In contrast, institutional expenditures per student rose by a total of 6 percent at public doctoral universities over this ten-year period, and by 3 percent at public master’s universities. Community colleges spend 7 percent less per student in inflation-adjusted dollars than they did a decade ago. So there has not been a rapid rise in spending on public college campuses that could be the primary driver of tuition increases.

    It is not rising expenditures, but declining state revenues that account for most of the pressure on state institutions to raise tuition.

    None of this is to say that colleges shouldn’t work to lower costs and raise efficiency or that state appropriation patterns are the only explanation for tuition increases. But denying the failure of state funding to keep up with enrollment increases will interfere with efforts to improve college access and affordability for all students.”

  206. “Tuition should be 18% higher, adjusted for in inflation, than it was in 1983.”
    Agreed.
    Except for the unintended consequences of guaranteed student loans creating money that could only be spent on one thing: higher education. Demand pull inflation at its finest.

  207. “Except for the unintended consequences of guaranteed student loans creating money that could only be spent on one thing: higher education. Demand pull inflation at its finest.”

    This is a standard conservative critique, made by the very same people who want to do essentially the same thing to K12, via a voucher system that includes private schools.

  208. “In contrast, institutional expenditures per student rose by a total …

    Then where’s the rest of it going?

  209. Milo, that is an interesting question. There is an article over at Chronicle site with a long comment chain picking this apart.

  210. This is a standard conservative critique

    That doesn’t make it wrong. Certainly you would agree that guaranteed and low-interest mortgages drive up the cost of real estate.

  211. MM – Based on the survey(s) that have been posted here a la How Liberal Are You, and I’m surprisingly (to me) more liberal than I expected to be, I’m not a conservative trying to offer up a standard critique, and I’m not for an overall K-12 voucher system. I’m just calling ’em as I see ’em. To wit: more dollars magically appear that can only be used for one limited thing. Price inflation is sure to ensue at least in the short term. In this case, it’s been for 30+ years.

    If this inflation and pricing power is not due to the flood of GSL money chasing a limited resource, to what do you ascribe the ability of colleges to continually raise (list) price at a rate > inflation for such a long time? The availability of the loan funds surely has increased demand for the services by people who otherwise would have been unable to afford the cost of attendance.

  212. Milo, agreed, but then why are conservatives so gung ho for privatized voucher systems, if they accept the premise that this will drive up costs

  213. This is a standard conservative critique, made by the very same people who want to do essentially the same thing to K12, via a voucher system that includes private schools.

    The lady has a point.

  214. There was a REALLY good series on WaPo a year or two ago, which picked apart the cost drivers for university tuition in detail. It is a multi part series, so not for the faint of heart. But I think that level of detail is necessary to understand the problem. Basically, the main points the series made was that there is no one smoking gun culprit for the rises in tuition, and even more importantly, that the drivers are different for different higher ed sectors. I think it is hard to assert anything about higher ed costs until you have waded through that series. I will see if I can find it.

    But basically, all of this stuff factors in, but the exact mix is different for different sectors of higher ed

  215. Milo, agreed, but then why are conservatives so gung ho for privatized voucher systems, if they accept the premise that this will drive up costs

    I’m not particularly gung ho for a voucher system. I rather like the idea that I can buy a house that is easy for me to afford in a good school district and call it a day. I don’t have to worry about what “style” of teaching is the “best fit” for my kids. But I digress.

    I don’t know that it’s really an apt comparison, though. The amount available for each voucher would be set by the state legislature. Then parents have to decide if they want to choose a school that costs more than that (and could you use the voucher, then pay, let’s say an extra $2k or so?) Either way, I think that’s very different than subsidizing loans on one end, paying the universities directly at the other end, and still demanding some family contribution.

    You may as well insist that food stamps are driving up the cost of groceries.

  216. MM – conservatives are for the voucher system in the belief that (more) state-support of private/parochial schools will increase supply also. And their belief that those private schools (which can select the better/prepared/motivated students) can deliver the goods for a lower cost/student than the existing public school apparatus.

    I’m not so sure. What’s the cost of instruction going to be? For these to be excellent schools, they need excellent teachers. Sure some excellent teachers will migrate because they believe in the cause and could accept less comp (like many Catholic school teachers…it’s their calling); some others will be happy to have a better work environment and could accept less comp. But really, will the costs for excellent teachers be < for the public schools? Don't know. I can buy into the idea of fewer aides/remedial support people since these private schools could admit only those they feel will be motivated and keep their noses clean.

    And leave all the costly (special ed, unmotivated, and troublemakers) in the public school system with an even higher than now cost/pupil.

  217. “he amount available for each voucher would be set by the state legislature. ”
    And you don’t think there will be incredible pressure from the private school lobby to increase this amount each year? And from parents who want their kids to be in high service schools?

  218. And you don’t think there will be incredible pressure from the private school lobby to increase this amount each year? And from parents who want their kids to be in high service schools?

    Sure, and there’s also incredible pressure to not raise taxes. It’s not like there’s not any pressure now to raise school spending.

  219. What will happen under a full voucher system is that the schools will offer lots of frills in order to attract students, just as happened in higher ed. And they will constantly lobby for increased voucher funding. Meanwhile, parents of means will not want their kids in the public system because it will have become a disaster zone with all the worst students left behind. Even the schools in the wealthy burbs will be suffering, unless places like Scarsdale entirely opt out, which could be possible. But if they don’t, the parents in those districts will want their kids going to the privates too, except they will want their kids in BETTER privates than everyone else. And then comes the real conundrum – will we allow schools that charge more than the voucher to accept vouchers as partial payment? If so, a loan system will quickly follow since everyone will want to go to the fancy privates that have the best services and amenities. On the other hand, if schools are not allowed to charge more than the voucher, the middle and upper middle class will quickly abandon the entire system and bolt for private schools without vouchers, leaving the voucher system as a second tier world for the poor.

  220. middle and upper middle class will quickly abandon the entire system and bolt for private schools without vouchers, leaving the voucher system as a second tier world for the poor…

    Who will henceforth be known as the “factionless.” :)

  221. I think part of the reason conservatives are gung-ho about vouchers as they think they have a better chance of passing that than of getting rid of the teachers’ unions. There are of course many outstanding public school teachers, but the poor quality and lack of motivation particularly at some of the worst schools would shock most of you. For instance, my cousin taught at a rural poor underperforming school in the south. She faced physical assault in the classroom and was not allowed to give any grades below a “C.” She came in very idealistic and wanted to really help the kids learn, but was completely unsupported by the administration even on matters of safety. They made it clear that the only teachers they wanted were babysitters- literally most of the teachers in the school turned off the lights in their classrooms and would put their heads down on their desks all period while the kids ran wild. But of course none of those teachers could ever be fired, and the administration didn’t even want to.

    What conservatives and liberals could maybe agree upon would be the need to increase the social standing of teaching and make it an elite, respected profession as in parts of Asia and Europe. Any other proposed solution has already failed as long as the statistically worst students choose teaching as a major. Problem is there is no easy cultural fix for that.

  222. Uhhh…I think I’ve seen this movie before…maybe in the 60s-70s when forced busing to integrate schools, not just in the south, but in places like Boston took hold. People of means (read white, middle-to-upper middle class) who just wanted a decent public education (probably like they had) voted with their feet and abandoned the cities to the “factionless.” Cities of all sizes continue to suffer the consequences, while suburban schools are generally doing just fine, TYVM.

  223. Surburban schools are fine, but even reformed bleeding heart liberals like me are starting to question the entire system. I can’t believe the crap that was voted and approved last week by the governor and the NY legislature. I always believed that teachers should be evaluated like most employees in other industries, but I can’t understand the stuff that politicians make up to make our schools “better”.

    I really wish that I could turn back the clock and enroll my kid in private school. I know it isn’t too late, but the whole process would have been a lot easier if I just went in this direction after preschool.

  224. Rhett, and local control. Right now, in most of the NE, districts are small and set their own per pupil expenditures. Scarsdale spend a LOT more per pupil than Mount Vernon, or even my own district. A voucher system would force everyone to the same per-pupil spending. How would that work for a district like Scarsdale? Would they be allowed to continue to spend more except for kids on vouchers? If so, when a kid goes to a voucher school, would Scarsdale lose the voucher amount or the Scarsdale amount? I really can’t even wrap my head around the mechanics.

  225. Lauren, what was passed last week was what conservatives want – a system to punitively evaluate teachers so they can break the unions. Cuomo may be a Democrat but this was played entirely for conservatives.

  226. Scarsdale spend a LOT more per pupil than….

    and they have a better HS ice hockey team to show for it (to tie into the real topic).

  227. “Not even. No grades BELOW a ‘C.’

    That can’t be how it works, can it? Sure seems a lot easier than killing yourself in high school with grades and activities and SAT prep, etc.”

    Rhett-The way that I understand it is that the students still have to be accepted, but that all grades will transfer. In the past, schools were more selective about which classes that they would accept from CC, making transfer kids retake some of the classes at the four year school, but now the four year schools take accept all classes from cc as long as the grades are ok.

    Although dd is still a few years away from college, I have been (thanks to this blog) checking out financial aid. I was hoping that since dh and I are both self-employed we could cut way back on work for a few years and qualify for free or greatly reduced tuition, but it seems as though colleges look at how much money you have saved as well. My new plan is to increase our acreage and a buy a few more sheep to put on that land before dd starts the financial aid process.

  228. Mooshi,

    I’d expect the property taxes in Scarsdale to drop 80% but to send your kids to school there would cost voucher plus $20k out of pocket.

  229. a system to punitively evaluate teachers so they can break the unions…

    what I do not understand is why there are teachers unions everywhere. I guess I could accept there being unions in all the cities, but why in suburbs, especially the “better” school districts?

    Can someone, honestly, help me on this?

  230. Actually, lots of areas do not have strong teachers unions. Evidently, some states like Georgia and South Carolina and Texas prohibit collective bargaining with teachers. Those states are hardly paragons of great education.

  231. I guess I could accept there being unions in all the cities, but why in suburbs, especially the “better” school districts?

    1916: The American Federation of Teachers is created in Chicago as several local unions band together. The AFT focuses on salaries and discrimination against female teachers, including contracts requiring that they wear skirts of certain lengths, teach Sunday school, and not receive “gentleman callers more than three times a week,” according to American Teacher magazine.

    I assume in the “better” school districts you have even more crazy parents that the teachers need to be protected from.

  232. Mooshi – That puts my state among those with the weakest teachers’ unions. From where are you getting this “worst educational systems”?

  233. Also, Mooshi, neighboring DC public schools are in the second-strongest teachers’ unions. Hmmmm.

  234. My history with unions is really northeast centric. I am not as familiar with the history in other parts of the country, but the unions for public workers in this state are strong and powerful. NY is the ONLY state in the country that has the Taylor Law. This law is also known as the Public Employees Fair Employment Act (the Taylor Law) is a statute named after labor researcher George W. Taylor which authorizes a governor-appointed State Public Employment Relations Board to resolve contract disputes for public employees while curtailing their right to strike. The law provides for mediation and binding arbitration to give voice to unions, while work stoppages are made punishable with fines and jail time.

    The Taylor law limits their right to strike, but the teachers STILL get raises and every other benefit even without a contract. There is so little incentive for them to negotiate even when there is no contract because they will still get “step” up raises etc.

    The unions will not be broken in states like NY in my life time (IMHO) because they are just too powerful. There are so many people that have friends and/or family that were part of unions, or still belong to a union. The one difference this time is that the teachers union is actually trying to get parents on their side about the testing and teacher evaluations. They can use social media to explain and share information with the parents in a way that was not possible years ago.

    I now see both sides of why a union is sometimes needed because I have a good friend that recently left a teaching position in Stamford to teach in Charlotte. She has no union in Charlotte and she teaches in a trailer and three of her kids have been arrested for semi violent crimes since she started there in August. She feels so lost without a union to help her, but she is stuck in that system unless she wants to try to get a job in a charter or private school. As much as I can’t stand some of the stuff that the teachers union does in my district – they just would never permit that kind of stuff to happen to one of their members.

  235. Also, I don’t agree with the comment about Cuomo. It was Gov Cuomo that held the school budgets hostage to teacher evaluations that would be done his way. It wasn’t the republicans or the conservatives. that was all Cuomo. He is the same person that picked the Chancellor and the head of the Board of Regents too.

    I am just so tired of politicians in the state (and many states) sending their kids to private schools and then turning around and making things very burdensome for public school kids.

  236. Luckily – the crimes were not in the classroom. They were arrested for crimes that were committed outside of school.

  237. they just would never permit that kind of stuff to happen to one of their members.

    What does this mean? There are no public school students in NYC who get arrested for semi-violent crimes, because the teachers’ union won’t allow it?

    And “trailer” is a bit of loaded misnomer. They’re just modular classrooms:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=modular+classrooms&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=GvEjVe3-EPHbsASg74DYBw&ved=0CAUQ_AU

    I’m sure there are plenty of schools in NY with worse classroom settings.

  238. It was totally Cuomo, but I consider him to be quite conservative, and this one was clearly played to his more conservative constituency. You didn’t see DeBlasio jumping on the teacher evaluation bandwagon. But there has been a history for years of conservatives calling for test based teacher evaluation

  239. I spent 5th grade in a trailer AKA modular classroom, at a private school. We thought it was a cool set-up. No big deal.

  240. I think the larger point is that lack of a teachers union doesn’t mean that you will have a great education system. If so, Missisippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana would be awesome. The forces that drag down US education are much bigger than teachers unions.

  241. I think the larger point is that lack of a teachers union doesn’t mean that you will have a great education system.

    And I think the larger point is that, as is clearly indicated by your own map, weak teachers’ unions certainly don’t prevent you from having great educational systems.

  242. I was specifically addressing the question about suburban school systems having unions. The story about classrooms and the state of the schools in the five large cities in NY state is a totally different story. Surburban districts are directly responsible for their budgets, and the micro districts have separate unions in each district. It is a COMPLETELY different story in the five large cities in NY state.

  243. “This is a standard conservative critique, made by the very same people who want to do essentially the same thing to K12, via a voucher system that includes private schools.””

    Well, it’s slightly different since we already fund K12 and since those costs per pupil have already increased about double the inflation rate over the last 20 years.

    And minorities join conservatives in supporting vouchers, as they have their own criticisms about our present system.

  244. Also, its difficult to control the entry and knives and other weapons in modular units. You guys might think its fun in your private school, but try spending a day alone in a modular unit without the rest of your security or teaching staff. Its not “fun” when you feel unsafe for any reason and you are in a modular unit alone.

  245. @ Lauren – I have a feeling that although your friend is an experienced teacher, they probably give tough assignments to first year in the system teachers. Also, it seems that when you do your time, and do well, the school system wants to send their best people to shore up the worst performing schools. Obviously great for the school system, not for the teacher.
    Your friend can try for the many charter or private schools.

  246. Although this quote was amusing:

    ”We’re running out of elbow room,” said Gary A. Burton, superintendent of Wayland schools. ”It’s like living on a submarine where there’s one bed for every three people.”

    No, I’m quite sure it’s not like that. And for the junior enlisted who don’t get their own bed, there are TWO beds for every three people, not one. (Since one person is always on watch, you’ll always have a bed available.)

  247. This is not to minimize the issues of having kids in modular/trailer classrooms. The one year DS was in one, he loved it because it was right next to the playground. Also, he had a very strict teacher – she liked being there with her students – away from the distractions of the rest of the school.

  248. It will be interesting to see how recruiters react to the exclusivity of prestigious private schools. My employer used to recruit at Stanford, MIT, Cornell, etc. but has largely transitioned to state schools because the opportunities people from more prestigious schools want are not available. The cousins with Wharton MBA’s are very successful but they travel/move often. It seems like travel/mobility may be a bigger factor than where you attend school in terms of rising in your career, as business has become more global.

  249. “I’m curious what vouchers would do to home prices.”

    Probably not much here. We have a statewide school district.

  250. “statute named after labor researcher George W. Taylor which authorizes a governor-appointed State Public Employment Relations Board to resolve contract disputes for public employees while curtailing their right to strike.”

    We have something similar here.

  251. Not much anywhere I’ve lived- many states let you transfer between school districts if you fill out a form and the receiving school district almost always approves. It’s providing transportation that’s the hurdle…

  252. “If you’re thinking of using real estate to shelter assets, you should know that most selective private colleges use the CSS Profile for determining need, and thus will count some of your home equity.”

    My understanding is that this is not consistent within schools using CSS Profile. E.g., I believe Harvard does not count home equity; last night I put some rough numbers in the link HM posted for their net price calculator, and noticed that home equity was not part of their calculation.

    Isn’t home equity not counted by FAFSA schools?

  253. “Another unintended consequence of this kind of opaque pricing structure is that many poor $$ but qualified academically students way undershoot when applying to colleges…they could get in, succeed, and afford many very good schools”

    This is what I’ve been trying to tell WCE.

  254. Back to the voucher discussion, I’ve long wondered about voucher proponents’ apparent assumption that privates would accept vouchers.

    Here, the top privates seem to not have problems filling their classes; the acceptance rates are in the 20% range. I could totally see them choosing to not accept vouchers, especially if they come with strings, e.g., require them to take certain students that they otherwise wouldn’t take. The scenario Mooshi raised, of vouchers being less than what they charge, but having to accept vouchers as total payment, would be another set of strings that might prompt them to not accept vouchers.

  255. With my parents’ income, I probably would have gotten better packages at some non-MIT schools, but the application fees kept me from applying. Recall, however, that anti-trust investigations since I went to college have increased how much many well-endowed schools are paying out in aid. Meme’s kids and LfB benefitted from their mom’s knowledge of the higher education system. My mom routinely warns me that my kids are suffering because I have a job, so college prestige has clearly never been on their radar.

    A local friend-of-a-friend heading to MIT this year is from a moderate income family (~$50k, 5 kids, farm) and will likely have 70-80% of the cost of his education in the form of grants. Neither I (median income family with 4 kids in 1993) or my college boyfriend (low income, qualified for Pell grants and was a Rhodes Scholar nominee) saw that level of aid.

  256. It’s interesting to me to see the current split in attitudes towards college. I’ll just pick on WCE and L because they can beat me up if they want. Looks like L has the more traditional attitude that the “college experience” has inherent value. Spending time in a community of scholars (albeit occasionally drunk ones) and getting a liberal arts education is intrinsically valuable. Maybe some artsy/musical extra-curriculars to round things out. WCE seems to have it planned that her kids will get their engineering degrees as quickly and cheaply as possible and then get out there and be self-sufficient. (I’m sure L wants her kids to be self-sufficient too).

    WCE, you’ve expressed some amazement at the, uh, princessy? attitude I guess I sometimes evince. It’s all about the liberal arts and the meaning of life, man. But sometimes your attitude of “poverty is a heartbeat away, get the f*cking engineering degree and shut up and work” doesn’t really seem to fit your current circumstances. Your kids are already better off than you and your sibs were (in a wide variety of ways). What if Baby WCE wants to major in Comparative Lit? Will your head explode? Will you refuse to fund it? Just curious.

  257. RMS, you know that envy is one of the seven deadly sins, and I will publicly admit to some envy at the education that you, L, Meme and others received. It isn’t so much that I don’t value the liberal arts (I was in chamber choir during college and I was the only female non-music major, so it was a moderately selective ensemble consisting of 24 singers, 3 on a part) as that I was on my own at 17. Right now, money feels tight because I’m on an extended maternity leave, have unexpected childcare expenses for an infant, don’t have a secure job and am trying to decide how many sets of plane tickets to the Midwest our family can afford, since my mom has end-stage pancreatic cancer.

    If Baby WCE wants to get a degree in comparative lit, I hope to be able to fund an extra year of school so she can have two majors- my sister (chem e) was one class short of a history major, only because the class she wanted wasn’t offered. And I don’t think engineering is the only way to go, but I admit to a strong bias toward something practical.

    How do most philosophy majors with four kids make it financially? I resonated with MBT’s earlier post about the costs of multiple teens- we’re certainly not poor, but HM’s $5750 above doesn’t reach down the priority list to fund comparative lit at Stanford unless Baby WCE shows gifts far beyond her current one, passing gas.

    And I suppose what many/most of you are thinking if you read this far is, “Don’t have four kids” but that ship has sailed.

  258. “getting a liberal arts education is intrinsically valuable.”

    Serious question… What is the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education? DS is nearing the end of soph year and thus thinking about colleges, and he’s largely ruled out SLACs at this point.

    Part of that is that he’s still considering engineering, and SLACs won’t give him that option, but I think part of it is also not seeing the “intrinsic value of a liberal arts education.”

    Should he be considering SLACs?

  259. “How do most philosophy majors with four kids make it financially?”

    In all seriousness, the ones I know (none have 4 kids yet but some are already on their way) went to law or med school, or went to work for McKinsey or an investment bank (they will sometimes take rigorous liberal arts majors from the “right” schools.) Only one aimed for a doctorate, and he changed his mind and went to law school. I think most liberal arts majors realize these days that academia can’t be the end game for many.

  260. Finn, my favorite very short answer to your question is a quotation from Edith Hamilton, the classicist from the early part of the 20th century: “It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought — that is to be educated.”

    Or Einstein: “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

    Engineers do that too, of course.

    WCE, I think you’re asking “how do philosophy majors make a living?” Well, DH is a lawyer. Lots and lots of philosophy majors go into law. That’s a bad idea right now, but everything goes in cycles. By the time Baby WCE is ready to graduate from college, law may be a great choice again. Let’s see, my bff from college (also a philosophy major) is “Director, Global Services Partner Marketing” at Giant Tech Company. Some become academics (again, not recommended these days.) Some get basic tech training and go into IT management (essentially what yours truly did.) Philosophers and computers speak a very similar stupidly literal language, though computers are much better than philosophers these days. Googling some of my old friends…a couple seem to have gone into publishing. One of them is “Medical Device Quality and Regulatory Consultant ” at some medical device manufacturing company. One is VP of Environmental Affairs at some oil company in Utah. I think you can see that even the ones that don’t go to law school tend to drift towards regulatory jobs. Or marketing, or tech.

  261. Most of my history major friends are now lawyers. LOL. A few are authors or doctors, and a few are professors. Like Rio, most people went to law/med school or consulting or I-banking.

    HM, you have found me out. Where else would you be able to study most of the time and still have a bunch of time for singing/drama activities? :)

  262. Finn: My DS is in exactly the same situation. We are not considering SLACs, because they cost too much and usually don’t offer engineering degrees. The closest things to SLACs that are on our list are Rice and Johns Hopkins. Both these schools are a reach, academically and financially.

    It’s hard to get excited about Johns Hopkins when UT and Texas A&M have stronger engineering programs at 1/3 the cost, but that’s just me.

  263. Houston- look at SMU. My brother almost went there due to extremely generous merit aid, and that they encourage their engineers to double major in whatever they want. (Most schools discourage double majors for engineers.) Apparently they want well-rounded engineers (not “enginerds” they said) and emphasize lots of writing and speaking. They also let undergrads use the fancy lab equipment and stuff like that apparently doesn’t happen much at big state schools. Just going secondhand off of what my brother told me, but it sounded like a great option.

  264. I doubt that RMS’s friends are representative of how philosophy majors who go to State U fare. At neither of the state universities I attended does majoring in liberal arts allow one to enter a “community of scholars.” A community of drunks is a more candid assessment. My history professor really liked me because I 1) regularly showed up for class 2) did the assigned reading 3) wrote down questions about anything I didn’t understand. Pretty much none of the history majors did any of those three things.

    With the assets we might have at 60, when we’ll be college parents, our cost for one kid at Harvard annually would be ~$40k. With three kids, it would be $20k/kid. We’ll have kids in college for 10 or 11 years. Then the kids would have to take out loans for med/law school, if the cases you describe are representative. I just can’t see the numbers working out for most families like ours. And that assumes no terminal cancer diagnosis.

  265. Rio: Thanks! I never considered SMU, as it’s a private school and fairly expensive. I’ll check it out. I’m a big fan of smaller engineering programs, as UT and A&M are so huge.

  266. “Serious question… What is the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education?”

    … employers are looking for the skills that liberal-arts studies instill — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing. College graduates who tested best at liberal-arts skills were “far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest.

    However, it is often argued that most liberal arts graduates have not learned all that much in college because for most humanities (and business and other majors) graduates, “college is a smorgasbord of easy courses chosen for their lack of academic rigor”.  In contrast, most STEM graduates have not gone through a watered down curriculum.

    WCE has it right:

    “I doubt that RMS’s friends are representative of how philosophy majors who go to State U fare.”

  267. I did so well on the GRE verbal that my graduate school department was delighted to accept my score for admission in light of a TOEFL score. :)

  268. Uh, I went to a State U. And my friends are very ordinary! Well, no, some of them aren’t. DH certainly isn’t. I think the main thing is a) we graduated into a different economy and b) where you wind up at age 55 isn’t necessarily where you started at 23.

  269. “Philosophers and computers speak a very similar stupidly literal language”

    Is taking philosophy classes a good way to learn logic? That seems to be useful, and scarce, knowledge..

  270. Houston, Rice has a reputation for having a good engineering program. I’ve worked with several Rice grads in the past, and that experience was consistent with that reputation.

    Are UT and A&M at the top of your DS’ list?

  271. WCE, is that a rhetorical question? There’s all sorts of places where logic is useful, e.g., programming, designing experiments.

    It can also be useful in debate, but sadly, as DS has found, only if you have judges who understand it.

  272. “Uh, I went to a State U.”

    I didn’t mean to impugn you or your school, but somehow I don’t think you’re a typical state university humanities grad. But I could be wrong. Besides the economy and other factors, the reason liberal arts grads are having a hard time probably has to do with what they have not learned during their 16+ years of schooling.

  273. When I was in HS, I got an unsolicited full ride offer from SMU, probably because of my test scores. More recently, the very high-achieving nephew of a friend of mine (student body president, and I believe NMF) is currently at SMU, I believe largely because of generous merit aid,

    “Most schools discourage double majors for engineers.”

    Mine didn’t. However, my advisor pointed out to me that it would make more sense to finish my degree first, then pursue a second degree if that’s what I wanted.

    “They also let undergrads use the fancy lab equipment and stuff like that apparently doesn’t happen much at big state schools. ”

    My alma mater does that as well. A lot of undergrads get involved in research and cubesat projects.

  274. No, CoC, you’re right, I’m the one who has complained on your other blog about the decline in standards in humanities classes in the last 30 years.

    Finn, philosophical logic and mathematical logic are similar. Often schools will allow philosophical logic to count as a math credit (mine didn’t, dammit, but some do). And yeah, I’m not sure what WCE is aiming at — they’re very closely related to computer stuff.

  275. Milo, do you consider your alma mater to be a Liberal Arts College?

    I think one SLAC, at least based on that list, which DS will consider is Harvey Mudd. But, as I asked before, who goes to Harvey Mudd to be a liberal arts major?

  276. “It turns out that employers are looking for the skills that liberal-arts studies instill — critical thinking, logical reasoning, clear writing. ”

    I guess we’re hoping that schools that offer engineering degrees can also teach those skills.

    A couple of reasons I’ve heard to look at SLACs is their emphasis on teaching over research (assuming that’s your priority), and that some of them have good track records of their grads getting into good graduate programs.

  277. My alma mater does that as well. A lot of undergrads get involved in research and cubesat projects.

    Finn, at your undergrad, one of my high school buddies teaches this class:

    ME 113: Mechanical Engineering Design
    Capstone course. Mechanical engineering design is experienced by students as they work on team projects.

    My buddy had to run around hustling industry projects to connect to the students. I guess it wasn’t that hard, tho’ he was bitching about it a little to me on Facebook a month or so ago.

  278. ME 113 is, and was, one of the core engineering classes that all engineering majors were required to take. It was also one of the most fun classes I had. In talking to more recent students, it’s still one of the most fun classes.

    I will have to ask my classmate, in the EE dept, who teaches that class.

  279. RMS, the projects we did in ME113 weren’t industry sponsored.

    One was to build a windmill (I remember mine was a key datum in our class discovery that the power curves we’d been given to use as a basis for design was wrong), and another was “Death to Death Star,” in which we had to design and build a system to deliver a payload from a launch point at ground level to a half dome on the top of the building.

  280. Eeep! Finn, if you want to know who my friend is, please just email me at rockymountainstepmom@outlook.com . Don’t go around starting rumors amongst the faculty. Apparently now the class is more about working with industry.

  281. RMS, I was just wondering if I already know your friend the prof. It would be interesting to find that you and I know someone in common IRL

    I have no intention of outing anyone.

  282. My friend isn’t full-time faculty. In a lesser university, I guess he’d be an adjunct, but at your alma mater he’s a Consulting Associate Professor. You’re younger than I am, aren’t you? I’m 55. So you probably didn’t know him as an undergrad, but you would have if you were in LSJUMB at any time between 1978 and 1983.

  283. C’mon, email me with a throwaway address. Now I’m curious.

  284. RMS, I was never in LSJUMB. However, a very good friend was in it during part of the time frame you mentioned. That friend also has a son currently attending my alma mater, although not as an engineering major.

  285. RMS, I was just wondering if I already know your friend the prof. It would be interesting to find that you and I know someone in common IRL

    It’s a small world. In another online forum I used to participate in there was a woman I got to know, and it turned out that her husband had worked with my wife’s sister at one point.

  286. Oddly, despite all the fora I’ve participated in, I’ve never had an “OMG it’s YOU!!” experience. I’ve met lots of people and made new friends, though.

  287. No one goes to Harvey Mudd to major in Liberal Arts, as it is not allowed (at least not as a primary course of study). HMC is a Very Small and Liberal Engineering School, near some liberal arts colleges; it is not a SLAC. Their education is heavily theory-based (in the 90s, they mostly refused to teach any type of computer programming, as they don’t want to be involved in vocational education). They require a concentration in something other than a hard science, and many people will end up taking 4 or 5 classes in something soft and squishy like economics or philosophy. Their graduates go onto graduate school at a higher rate than almost any school in the country.

  288. They require a concentration in something other than a hard science, and many people will end up taking 4 or 5 classes in something soft and squishy like economics or philosophy.

    Squish squish.

    “To be is to do”—Socrates.
    “To do is to be”—Jean-Paul Sartre.
    “Do be do be do”—Frank Sinatra.

  289. Milo, Believe me, I’d love for DS to go to #13. However, it seems like something you have to really want. DS does not dislike #13, but he’s not passionate about it. He’s only a sophomore, so we’ll see how things develop.

  290. So, I have no idea how this works. Milo, please help? Don’t you need a rec from a senator? What happens if you don’t know a senator? I should know this b/c of all my ancestors who went to the various academies, but that was so long ago.

  291. Said with all due sarcasm, RMS. It is only at Harvey Mudd that the following are considered the soft and easy way to go: biology, econ, philosophy

  292. Rocky – it’s a stupid process and the only reason I think they keep it around is that it adds a sense of intrigue and prestige. Or, practically, they figure it’s a way of ensuring that applicants are willing to jump through a lot of extra hoops.

    You apply to your Representative and both Senators. You don’t have to know them or even like them. Each of their offices has a couple staffers who handle this process, and they each have a somewhat unique application that’s similar to any other college application, including its own essay questions. So it’s just a lot of paperwork. Each may or may not choose to have interviews.

    You simultaneously apply to the school. If the school really wants you but you come from a district that is over represented, they can arrange to get you an unused nomination from North Dakota.

  293. “but you come from a district that is over represented”

    I imagine that there’s tough competition from Texas.

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