The upper middle class constituency

by WCE

Even the less Totebaggy Totebaggers mostly qualify as the statistical upper middle class.

The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America

 

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256 thoughts on “The upper middle class constituency

  1. We often hear about how awesome it is that Uber is making taxi service cheaper and more accessible for ordinary consumers but how sad it is that they are making life harder for working-class drivers who drive traditional cabs. Notice that upper-middle-class credentialed professionals like dentists, lawyers, and doctors rarely get Uber’d to the same degree.

    Maybe doctors aren’t as good as other professions about protecting our “upper-middle class” lifestyle, but 12% of residency positions (about 3,000 per year) go to foreign-born (non-citizen) and foreign-educated MDs. (Another almost equally big chunk goes to US citizens educated abroad, but that is a different discussion). Residency training, in my opinion, is a legitimate prerequisite/roadblock for any medical practice in the US, despite the years of experience a physician may have in another country.

    Is there even such a thing as a foreign-educated lawyer that practices in the US? Are there many of them?

  2. I don’t usually read Reihan Salam, and I admit that after reading this I’m still confused about his argument.

    His complaints about the upper middle class are:
    (1) They vote and make political contributions;
    (2) They don’t like tax increases unless the increase only falls on richer people;
    (3) They support occupational licensing;
    (4) They might oppose higher-skilled immigration (there seems to be no factual support for this); and
    (5) They support land use restrictions and gentrify neighborhoods.

    None of this strikes me as ruining America.

    My view:
    (1) Anyone who is interested enough to vote should vote, and all political contributions should be transparent but not limited;
    (2) Everyone wants the extra taxes to be paid by someone else, so this isn’t new or limited to the UMC;
    (3) Most people like to keep their jobs and would support barriers to entry if they could;
    (4) Highly skilled immigrants are great (since he has no support for this I am not persuaded he is right about the typical upper middle class viewpoint);
    (5) Lots of land use restrictions are shortsighted but – as with everyone wanting taxes to be paid by someone else – nobody wants to live next door to the crackhouse or meat processing plant.

    His complaint boils down to the UMC making more of an effort than other groups to have their voices heard in the political process, and voting with their dollars and feet as well as at the ballot box. Thus it ever was, and ever will be, IMO.

    And there are some things that the upper middle class does well:
    (a) Fighting for good public schools (while some UMC families live in UMC-only neighborhoods, others are improving schools that serve a wide range of kids);
    (b) Supporting charitable organizations that rely on skilled volunteers and money from the UMC; and
    (c) Caring enough about the political process to get out and vote in local elections, and serve unpaid on local boards and commissions. For example, our school board is unpaid and an enormous amount of work – probably well over 20 hours/week – and is staffed by lawyers, accountants, doctors, educators, etc., who meet his definition of UMC.

    What worries me:
    (d) A widespread opposition (at least in my corner of Totebagland) to having sons or daughters in military service; and
    (e) A feeling of insecurity that is leading many to Tiger parenting (I count myself among the culprits here).

  3. Tangetial UMC ranting – I just found out that our new school has no art education – they color some worksheets, but neither the teacher nor a specialist do any work on color, shape, form, looking at art, etc. So far, it doesn’t seem like they even get to do any crafty dioramas. The back to school night curriculum worksheet talked about all the health topics, science, etc- but nothing in the arts (they do go to music twice a week). This is a change from the previous totebaggy school. I am wondering how common this is?

  4. Ada, we have no art in our district. A talented mom has done a few projects and a few elementary teachers are crafty.

  5. Our kids have to take an art class to graduate from high school. That is all the arts education except for some craft projects in elementary school.

  6. Sky, I agree that “Other people would behave just like we do if they had our social power” is a compelling argument.

    In another discussion, people were expressing concern for the children of working class single moms and how we should provide government assistance. I was the one who commented on existing tax rates and childcare costs for the statistical upper middle class and said that I wasn’t willing to work primarily to support other people’s children. Maybe my conservative political leanings make me more willing to state that we shouldn’t HAVE more taxes rather than that we should have more taxes but other people should pay them.

    I also think the UMC is the group that wants to believe it “cares about our future” and doesn’t want to ask hard questions about, for example, land use laws. In the local university town, housing is expensive compared to incomes and people with spare time like to go to meetings and talk about it. Many of them are in favor of both “green space” and “affordable housing.” I cynically argue that they should pick just one of those to support in the political process.

  7. Ada – our ES has art and music once a week.

    I agree with Sky on the article. The upper middle class is not a static group either if we’re defining it based on income.

  8. I probably shouldn’t say this, but during my entire professional career, I thought I paid too few taxes. Now, being somewhat reluctantly retired with a special needs kid in an expensive private school, I find myself thinking that I really don’t want to be paying so much, primarily in property taxes which generally fund our public school system which acknowledges that they can’t really help my son (and seems to do precious little to educate anyone else).

    I should have saved more of that money I think I should have been paying in taxes, I guess.

  9. Given much of the article’s description of UMC, we aren’t it. The exception is how we fit into the mix of private school families. We have a similar, but not quite the same degree, experience to the author.

    While the author pulls examples of the “negative” side of each of the points in the article – nice summary Sky! My thoughts:

    (1a) They vote – this is close to free given how our county anyway has early voting on weekends and at places like grocery stores where you don’t even have to be in your precinct. I agree it takes time to figure out what to vote for, though if you are clueless about what you are voting on, I’m not sure you should be voting.
    (1b) and make political contributions – agree that amounts given are correlated to income in general.
    (2) They don’t like tax increases unless the increase only falls on richer people – its human nature to prefer something negative happen to someone else regardless of where they fall on the spectrum.
    (3) They support occupational licensing – yes and no – I think the point is they have a better understanding of the purpose of the licensing, but this doesn’t mean they support it across the board. And, it doesn’t matter your occupation, if there are barriers to entry it is easier to make profit. Even that taxi driver – when the number of permits is limited it concentrates the revenue on fewer people. What usually comes into question is does the barrier actually protect people? Sometimes as we change as a society, the answer is no and that occupation should not be regulated or not regulated in the same way. The teeth-whitening example – are the non-dentists required to do it in a sanitary environment, use only chemicals that are safe on humans, etc.
    (4) They might oppose higher-skilled immigration (there seems to be no factual support for this); and – we know several people who have in essence trained their overseas replacements.
    (5) They support land use restrictions and gentrify neighborhoods. – Again, no one wants to live near the dump or the meat processing plant, etc. But, agree that UMC likely have more resources to fight the problem coming to their neighborhood.

  10. Ada,

    Residency training, in my opinion, is a legitimate prerequisite/roadblock for any medical practice in the US, despite the years of experience a physician may have in another country.

    Is it because an ER doc from London, Sydney or Toronto wouldn’t be familiar with how things are done here? What about a PCP?

  11. I actually think an A&E doc from London might be terribly out of place in our Emergency Department. (I am going to have to go off of stereotypes of NHS, but lack of solid information is not usually a barrier to my opining). I don’t believe other ER docs have the same scope of practice that the US expects of their docs – ability to manage ob-gyn emergencies in the first half of the pregnancy, ability to manage sick children, and minor surgical procedures. In many countries ER equivalents are staffed with either surgeons (can’t manage high blood pressure, new seizures), internists (can’t manage an ectopic pregnancy or a fever in a 4-week old). Because scope of practice varies considerably (in other specialties as well), it is hard to know what training is equivalent.

    (However, I believe Canadians are an exception, and treated as though they are just another northern state)

  12. Sky – Awesome summary! And, of course the things he’s complaining about are ruining America! They are changing the status quo from his childhood. ;p

    I read this article and laughed all the way through it. I’m no where near UMC by his standards; not even by the map Wine posted. And, ironically (maybe), by the time I get to his UMC standards, I will have moved to a true UMC neighborhood. Why? Because of some of the reasons he listed – better schools, better land use (I live in the ‘burbs and I’m all for protection of open space or for high/medium density mixed-use development), and honestly, less likely to be affected by some land use decisions and industrial expansions.

    His list sounds like he just wanted to complain about something – he got there and found that the land wasn’t populated by people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. So he decided that they are somehow ruining the region because of their non-negotiable necessities.

  13. Wine – not all medical schools and medical programs are created equal. Many foreign-born and educated doctors are usually in a better position to get licensed that American students who cannot get into US medical schools and go to the Caribbean to study. Most states require the education to be substantially similar to that in the US. Some of the workarounds include getting board certified or taking the USMLE or other types of competency based evaluations. The threshold for licensing is higher in some states than others, especially those who have limited remedies to patients harmed by doctors. For example, in some states you can take the USMLE as many times as you want until you pass. In other states, they limit the number of attempts to say 3-5.

  14. My take-away: People are self-interested. This is news? Why doesn’t the author have a beef with the ultra wealthy (e.g. the Manhattan-ites who fight new development tooth and nail)?

    Great summary Sky.

    Ada – we don’t have art (unless the PTO funds it), rarely get music (if the PTO funds it) and gym is once a week, but do have some kind of technology class once a week.

  15. I think that the key part of the author’s thesis, which was left unsaid, was that the politically left of the UMC have adopted the idea–some would say smug idea–that their political goals are generally for the benefit of society at large, particularly for the lower and working classes. What the author is illustrating is that, when push comes to shove, not only are they generally not eager to pay higher taxes, (and not only are they not enthusiastic about their kids serving in uniform, as Sky said), but the rest of their interests are just as self-serving.

    TL;DR – They’re a bunch of hypocrites.

  16. Agree with Sky and AustinMom. Seems to me that the UMC is just doing what the wealthy have always done, and the poor would do if they had more time/money/political power. The issue is just the combination of disposable income + free time + the sheer number of people in this category. Probably coupled with a bit of do-gooder instinct that leads folks to devote that free time and disposable income to “causes,” like saving the environment or opposing local development.

    So, basically, seems to me like you can sum up the article as “People are Ruining America.”

    “Maybe my conservative political leanings make me more willing to state that we shouldn’t HAVE more taxes rather than that we should have more taxes but other people should pay them.”

    See, and my liberal instincts say that I should be paying more taxes. I don’t like it, but I think it’s necessary, and I should bear a higher share of the burden because I can afford it. I was also on the flip side when I was younger and received some of that governmental support when I really needed it, so it feels like a moral imperative not to bitch about paying that forward.

  17. “unless the PTO funds it”

    Are all these PTOs sending a large portion of their funds to the less-wealthy schools, so they, too, can have art and music?

    After all, as Sky said, the UMC are “fighting for good public schools (while some UMC families live in UMC-only neighborhoods, others are improving schools that serve a wide range of kids)”

  18. “But, politically, who isn’t?”

    My impression is that they’re the worst, by far. Other political demographics don’t seem so averse to acknowledging that they’re acting on their own self-interest.

  19. Other political demographics don’t seem so averse to acknowledging that they’re acting on their own self-interest.

    I don’t see that. Every group tries to argue that their policies are good for the nation as a whole.

  20. Take Jeb!’s tax plan. It’s not about a huge giveaway to his wealthy backers, it’s about getting America to 4% annual growth.

  21. Rhett – Who doesn’t want 4% annual growth? Whom would it hurt?

    L – I identify as strictly middle class.

  22. Our elementary schools have 1 art class, 2 music classes, 2 gym classes, and 1 library/tech class per week (used to be about the Dewey decimal system and good literature, now about learning to type before the state exams).

    Spanish and band or orchestra are weekly for upper elementary, and Spanish is supposed to be taught starting in kindergarten soon.

    We also have after school classes for a nominal fee which cover a wide range from extra math and science to sculpture and cookie decorating.

    There is no money sharing among the town PTAs, but our district includes Title 1 schools which get the same class schedule, and have similar after school programs.

  23. Rocky – More power to you. Bruce-Caitlyn Jenner identifies as a woman. Certainly class is at least as fluid as gender.

    In terms of consumption, values, and lifestyle, we’re middle class.

  24. I would ask around about private art “lessons” starting with wherever the artsy people hang out. My kids have gone to a retired art teacher off and on to work on projects and learn a bit along the way. I would email this question since he or she is often the nicest and most informed parent around.

  25. Who doesn’t want 4% annual growth?

    Everyone wants it but anyone who is honest knows it’s not possible.

    1948-1952 (Harry S. Truman, Democrat), +4.82%
    1953-1960 (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican), +3%

    There is no way under current global conditions that 4% is possible*.

    * If fusion or AI are perfected or some such, then sure.

  26. In terms of consumption, values, and lifestyle, we’re middle class.

    Middle class people don’t have cleaning ladies.

  27. Milo – Happy to say as a liberal UMC Brooklynite who pulled herself up by her bootstraps (hat tip Rhode), that my kids go to a public school in a gentrifying neighborhood. The school is >90% minority, the neighborhood predominantly white. (My family is white, DH and kids are Hispanic.) We contribute generously to the PTA, to fund music, art, etc. Could I instead get my kids private art and music lessons? Yep, but I think it is important to support our neighborhood and community. So, I don’t view myself as a hypocrite.

    Yet, to acknowledge your point, most (white/UMC/rich) families in the neighborhood send their kids to private schools, yet are liberal and would say “diversity” in the classroom is important. There definitely is a bit of hypocrisy at play; otherwise NYC schools would not be so segregated.

    On the other hand, having been at this school for several years, I can tell you it is not a good fit for my kids (in particular) and we are now looking at private schools. Is that being hypocrite or just doing what makes sense for my family? And perhaps, couldn’t that be what my neighbors are doing as well (at least some of them)?

  28. This year is the first year our private ES has had a true art class. They got to do some seasonal artsy/crafty things that were completely teacher dependent before. An of course, the projects – science reports, book reports, dioramas, etc. where they were encourage to have pictures, models, etc.

  29. The author was being contrarian for clicks on a site whose viewpoint and presumably readership skews upper middle class. “Everyone says the 1% is ruining the political process, the economy, etc.; well, I say it’s you, the Slate readership and internet commentariat, who are ruining America!” I agree with Sky that the argument wasn’t well supported.

  30. Our district has art and music, so that is not funded by our PTO.

    However, there is some cross sharing of funds dictated by the district. For example, our PTO had a fund raiser to purchase to improve our school’s technology. As a result, we could purchase chrome books for several classrooms. We had to buy these from the district even though we had a contact that would sell them to us for less. We argued about that and it was revealed that the chrome books were being bought for the same price we found via our contact. However, the overage was being used to get technology for schools in the district that did not have the funding.

    The district built this in since there is a diverse economic base and this assists those schools in the lower brackets. Once that was transparent to our PTO, most everyone was okay with it as we are aware that we are in one of the wealthier neighborhoods in the district.

    I also know of several parents in our neighborhood that have assisted in doing fundraising for other schools in our district to better the district as a whole.

  31. “the politically left of the UMC have adopted the idea–some would say smug idea–that their political goals are generally for the benefit of society at large, particularly for the lower and working classes.”

    Trickle-down economics, anyone?

  32. To the Not Ada Anon; Match statistics agree that many hospitals believe you are right – Americans trained abroad do not do much better finding a position than non-citizens trained abroad. 5,000 US students had a 53% match rate, compared with 7200 international students with a 49% match rate.

    There are already large barriers to getting into that group of 7200 international students – your education must be certified by some body to be equivalent to an American medical education and you must have passed all three steps of the USMLE (the licensing test for MDs, US gradstake steps 1&2 prior to matching). There is no path to board certification that does not involve a residency period – board certification is not a match workaround.

    Probably the above is esoteric and not interesting to most, but I think the match process, as the sole pathway to physician practice in the US, is often overlooked as an important factor shaping the practice of medicine.

  33. Usually Lurks – that’s a nice way of doing things. Our ES Foundation raises about $200K per year, plus the bi-annual auction which I think last year raised $500K. The money goes to provide technology, curriculum support, occasional salary support, etc. I think everyone has art/music/foreign language in ES. Our taxes are also a lot higher than in other school districts so I suppose I could take the view that we’re supporting lower income schools that way.

  34. “They don’t like tax increases unless the increase only falls on richer people”

    I believe this sentiment is not limited to the UMC.

  35. “this says rich is HHI > 150K”

    This reflects what I believe to be a common fallacy of conflating (or perhaps confusing) wealth with income.

  36. “people were expressing concern for the children of working class single moms and how we should provide government assistance”

    They do get favorable income tax treatment.

  37. Totally unrelated and optional hijack: I can’t believe I am even considering this, but there’s a house in our area that is for sale that I am thinking of buying. Problem is it’s a historically listed house and will need a *ton* of work (which is the only reason it’s in our price range), including exterior stuff. Anyone have experience in renovating regulated historic buildings? I don’t even like HOAs, so even though I would intend to do historically appropriate things, The Process has me intimidated.

  38. “The upper middle class is not a static group either if we’re defining it based on income.”

    Even if we’re including wealth in the definition, I believe many in the UMC are in their 40s or older, and were not part of the UMC earlier in their lives. Thus we have folks like Milo who may be UMC (e.g., as defined in Wine’s link) but have MC sensibilities.

    If we’re defining by income, I would think a lot of people drop out of the UMC upon retirement.

  39. Finn,

    I think your assuming most people use rich and wealthy interchangeably. I don’t think people do as they mean different things.

  40. Raising the drawbridge – DH’s family has entered upper middle class ranks at least as far as income. If you ask them they would still say that they are lower middle class or poor. Their take is that no handouts for anyone, everyone must pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It has been interesting to hear all categories of people they now consider to be on the other side of the moat. I want to add – and you consider yourselves churchgoers….

  41. LfB – go to a zoning board hearing if you can, or talk with someone in the neighborhood about how tough the historical regulations are. In some towns (eg where I grew up) the process is easy and usually only takes one chat with a city councilperson; in others (eg Arlington MA) it is a HUGE PITA and friends were warned away from purchasing a listed home on the grounds that it would take 6 months for the proposed renos to get through the zoning board.

    Milo – I identify as a superhero (see avatar). ;)

    Ada – it is tough for foreign attorneys to get licensed but not impossible; depends on the state; many will get an LLM here and then take the bar in whatever state.

  42. LfB, I haven’t directly renovated a historic building, but in my family there was an old home that was held together by the termites. Just because it was old, getting demo permits was expensive and a big pain.

    For my job, I’ve also worked on a couple of buildings that were designated as historic. The limitations of that designation put a lot of limits on what could be done with the buildings, and also caused the renovation costs to be much higher than they would’ve been without it (in one case, I know it would’ve cost a lot less to demo the building and build a new one, even if the new building mimicked the look of the old building.

    If you watch This Old House, you’ll see them running into this sort of issue all the time.

    My take is that a historical designation will definitely add to the cost of any renovation work, and limit your options.

  43. 529 college savings plans… Only 3 percent of households actually make use of these accounts

    It reminds me of an interesting conversation I had with some of the actually middle class people I work with. Long story short, according to the general consensus, one of the markers between MC and UMC are, “Are you making meaningful provision for your children’s college education?”

    Actual MC people plan on crossing that bridge when they come to it while the UMC will have a meaningful amount of money set aside.

  44. “I think your assuming most people use rich and wealthy interchangeably. I don’t think people do as they mean different things.”

    I’ve very frequently read and heard people defining “richness” based on income, e.g., “tax the rich.”

  45. ATM – I appreciate your comments. I’d say that a characteristic mindset of the UMC is an unquestioned embrace of the idea that the educational process must be individually fitted to each child.

    I’m not saying that to minimize whatever issue you may be experiencing–just a general observation.

  46. To Fin’s point, Wine’s link actually conflated the two definitions on its map. One of the labels says “households ‘worth’ $150k…”

  47. I find this statistic shocking.

    I don’t if you think in terms of actual middle class people.

  48. Milo – you are accurate and yet (mildly) insulting with the same statement. LOL. Where I grew up you went to your local school, maybe a Catholic school, and that was it. You did the homework, you took the tests, you got it done. Mind you, those were good schools.

    Now, I definitely see the “my special snowflake” syndrome everywhere. The schools themselves have bought into the individual fit mantra with “differentiated” instruction (whether real or simply lip service).

    For my particular situation, I can tell you many parents of G&T kids (of all races and ethnicities) are unhappy with the G&T program at my kids’ school. I also happen really to have a special snowflake child who would be better served at a different school. His brother will be fine anywhere. (Now if only I could afford those schools! My foot we are UMC, darn Manhattan-ites and hedge fund/celebrity types. Many of these schools are more expensive than my Ivy league undergraduate education.)

  49. ATM – I find this statistic misleading. There are 12 million 529 accounts, and 72 million people under 18 in the US. Also, the account provisions weren’t permanent until 2010, and partnerships with investment firms are relatively recent (past 10 years).

  50. Having grown up middle class (lower middle class?) I think Rhett’s anecdote is probably true about college savings. My parents always said we were going to college but paying for it was more of a “that’s a bridge we’ll cross when the time comes”. And it worked out fine (as it will for most of the middle class because there is a ton of aid out there already). We all went to private colleges that gave us enough need based aid that I think my dad only had to pay about $5K a year. The UMC saves for college because they know they are not rich/rich where they can easily write a check when the time comes but know they won’t be getting any “need-based aid”.

  51. Ada,

    Where did you find that 12 million 529 accounts number? The slate article points to ” A 2012 study from the Government Accountability Office found that only 3 percent of households had a 529 account” With 123 million households in the US 3% would be 3.7 million.

  52. I think the middle class view on retirement is similar to its college savings view – it will probably work out somehow (just thinking of our parents’ plans).

  53. The limitations of that designation put a lot of limits on what could be done with the buildings, and also caused the renovation costs to be much higher than they would’ve been without it (in one case, I know it would’ve cost a lot less to demo the building and build a new one, even if the new building mimicked the look of the old building.

    My husband complains about this issue with Pearl Harbor. They’re supposed to keep the shoreline looking like it did in 1941. The Navy spends a lot of extra money to do so.

  54. The UMC saves for college because they know they are not rich/rich where they can easily write a check when the time comes

    While that is true, it’s also about having enough left over at the end of the month. Just running some quick numbers, to pay half of instate room and board at a 5% return would cost 150/per kid per month. To pay it all, for two kids, would be $600/month. For Dave the insurance adjuster ($54k) and Debbie the part time physical therapy assistant ($24k) $300 or $600/month is a lot and there are going to be months when it’s just not in the cards. It’s going to be a lot of, “once they are out of daycare, once Debbie goes back full time,” and senior year rolls around and it they just never got around to it.

  55. We have four 529 accounts (one we won for our state and Baby WCE has none) for our four children. Lots of households with multiple children who have 529 accounts will have more than one. This may account for the difference between number of 529 accounts and percentage of households with [one or more] 529 accounts.

    In addition to Rhett’s comment, even if you save, you have to be confident that your kids will use the money for college in order to feel confident saving in a 529 account. And if you are “a parent of a certain age”, it makes sense to max out the 401(k) first, because if you’re over 59 when your kid is in college, you can get the same tax benefit from a 401(k). Middle class people can’t max out their 401(k)’s and fund 529’s.

  56. Rhett – plus they know they’ll be penalized with aid if they do save anything. And I think because there is not a huge amount left over every month they default into not saving anything.

  57. +1 to WCE’s comment.

    I don’t know how the 529 counting is done. for our household, when I log in it shows my name as the account owner. The detail shows 3 accounts all with the same 9-digit number followed by 01, 02 or 03 to designate which kid is the beneficiary.

    So maybe both Rhett’s and Ada’s numbers are right. ~3% of households = 3.7M have accounts; 12M accounts (reflecting > 1 account in many/most households that have them).

    And my in-laws have set up 529s for all their 7 grandkids, giving a 1:7 relationship of households to accounts.

  58. “I find this statistic shocking.”

    In addition to the issues already mentioned, a better parameter would be “households with minor children.” Otherwise, you’re including a lot of single, childless 20-somethings and empty-nesters among those “households” who don’t have a 529.

    The dramatic increase in single heads of household and the increasing proportions of retiree households are the major factor in “stagnant household incomes.”

  59. From my observation most middle class people are looking for their kids to be self sufficient once they reach eighteen. So, they can go to a four year college and take out student loans to pay for college or the alternative is some combination of community college/work your way up or trade school/work your way up. I think it has changed only in recent times where a chunk of the population can afford to have young adults who are not financially self sufficient.

  60. In addition to the issues already mentioned, a better parameter would be “households with minor children.” Otherwise, you’re including a lot of single, childless 20-somethings and empty-nesters among those “households” who don’t have a 529.

    agreed, the statistic given isn’t relevant since it includes people with no need for a 529

  61. Louise – a friend and I were arguing about just this – how much to save, should kids work during college, how self sufficient should college kids be, etc. I thought at least 75-80% of college kids took out loans but apparently the number is closer to 60%.

  62. Wine and Milo,

    A quick googling shows 35 million households in the US with minor children. That would equate to about 10% of families have 529 accounts. That seems like a plausible number to me.

  63. LfB, if your kids were grown and your job down to part-time, I’d say have a great time with that house.

    But right now if I were you I would run far, far, away.

    We have a wetlands designation rather than a historic designation, and it took more than 100 hours of our time to comply with the requirements during our renovation. I’m talking planning and meeting with the town, not actually doing the work.

    Talk to your GC and any builder friends you have before going forward, because jurisdictions differ, but if yours is anything like ours that house could take over your life.

  64. I agree with Louise and Rhett. College savings is not prioritized for a variety of reasons. I agree that one of the big ones is that cost is a huge part of the equation in school choice. A coworker’s son is living at home & going to community college in a pre-engineering program where if his grades are high enough, he is guaranteed admission to the engineering school at Flagship U. This is an excellent deal, but I don’t think there are too many, if any, UMC kids in his program.

    Milo – I don’t generally think of the obligation to grow your inheritance of millions for the benefit of future generations as a middle class value. But I guess that is totally offset by a disdain of private school. ;)

    I’m with HM on the actual article. Click bait without a lot of substance behind the arguments, but it IS Slate. It’s easy enough to pick at Totebaggers – we do it here all the time (even when it means poking fun at ourselves).

  65. There’s also the more wealthy families who don’t really get much benefit from a 529 & wouldn’t use them. I can definitely see 529’s as a primarily UMC savings vehicle.

  66. Fred, do you find you’re saving significant money on your grocery bill with two boys out of the house? I have wondered how much of the room and board cost is balanced out by that. My mother has mentioned that when my brother went off to college, she cut back on groceries as she had when my sister and I left but it wasn’t nearly enough. It became clear that my brother had been eating more than had both my parents put together.

  67. “Where did you find that 12 million 529 accounts number? The slate article points to ” A 2012 study from the Government Accountability Office found that only 3 percent of households had a 529 account” With 123 million households in the US 3% would be 3.7 million.”

    Ditto WCE et al. We have one household, two kids, and five 529s — one NM for DD, four MD (one for each parent for each kid to max state tax advantages).

    Which brings up the side note that perhaps one marker of “not MC” is “makes decisions based on tax benefits,” regardless of income or savings thresholds.

  68. We have 3 kids and don’t use 529s – I’ve been paranoid that they will end up being taxed.

    I never get a 5% investment return on anything. I’m lucky to break even year-over-year. So for us paying off debt at least has a guaranteed return :) (Rhett and Milo, I know you’ll ask, so I used the target-date index fund in the old company retirement plan and a few broad Vanguard index funds in the account from the other employer. Should work but hasn’t.)

  69. “10% of families have 529 accounts. That seems like a plausible number to me.”

    Agreed.

    When the Obama Administration was trying to make the argument for this tax increase, they were using the weighted math of the distribution to downplay its reach. In other words, since the balance in each 529 varies widely, those with higher balances–and higher marginal tax rates–are going to accrue a vast majority of the benefits as a function of total tax dollars saved. One of their gross miscalculations was assuming that a middle class family, someone in the bottom of that top 10%, would therefore be less passionate about her kids’ meager college savings than the 1% would.

  70. PS — thanks for the house input. Y’all are telling me what my brain is already saying. :-) But, damn. . . .

  71. “I don’t generally think of the obligation to grow your inheritance of millions for the benefit of future generations as a middle class value. But I guess that is totally offset by a disdain of private school. ;)”

    :) We haven’t inherited anything. As for my own money, if I owned a car wash instead of index fund shares, and was intent on passing down that business to my kids, that would be pretty middle class.

  72. the obligation to grow your inheritance of millions for the benefit of future generations

    The interesting point is that Milo’s theory, as near as I can tell, is that no one will ever benefit from it, it will just continue to grow in perpetuity for its own sake.

  73. From the referenced post:

    “I sensed that their gut political instincts were all about protecting what they had and scratching out the eyeballs of anyone who dared to suggest taking it away from them.”

    Again, I don’t see this as limited to the UMC.

    “families that earn well into the six-figure range yet don’t feel rich”

    Not a bad way to describe the UMC.

  74. I’m waiting for Meme to point out that the 401(k) has you set aside money pretax and pay taxes when you withdraw and the 529 has you set aside aftertax money that can then be withdrawn with no tax on earnings if used for qualified educational expenses.

  75. “no one will ever benefit from it”

    People benefit from earnings/dividends. If we owned a farm, the ideal would be that the family and future generations can benefit from the farm’s annual profits, and hopefully grow it some. You wouldn’t suggest that the only way to benefit from the farm is to sell off parcels of land year after year in order to pay your living expenses.

  76. Milo – shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations.

    In any case, make sure your trusts include a “Termination of Small Trusts” provision, bc otherwise your great-grandkids will be stuck getting only the income from a $100K portfolio every year, and bc they don’t get along with their cousins/aunts/uncles, there is a professional trustee taking out 1% every year so the accounts never grow and there is no income to speak of.

  77. http://www.businessinsider.com/most-expensive-colleges-in-america-2015-8

    This, together with my desire to be able to give the kids the chance to go away for college without either sending them off into the world with debt or having to take out loans ourselves, is why I’ve become interested in some of the directional and lesser-tier schools. I have the UMC assumption that we’re going to be paying for this ourselves, and that we should be able to do this, but damn. If you want to be able to say, “Wherever you can get in, we can send you,” you’re potentially talking over quarter of a million per kid.

  78. “I owned a car wash instead of index fund shares, and was intent on passing down that business to my kids, that would be pretty middle class.”

    True – I couldn’t resist poking a little fun. I see your parallel between the Millionaire Next Door small business owner who looks middle class – it’s totally valid. But – the MND thrifty small business owner isn’t really “middle class” either except in appearances, I would argue. It’s still not quite the same as Rhett’s physical therapist and cop or whatever example he used up top. There IS an element of income and retained wealth along with the cultural part and the consumption choices.

  79. “I have the UMC assumption that we’re going to be paying for this ourselves, and that we should be able to do this, but damn. If you want to be able to say, “Wherever you can get in, we can send you,” you’re potentially talking over quarter of a million per kid.”

    Seriously. Even with one kid, it’s hard to think about the fact that I could buy a snowbird condo somewhere down south with the savings. And yes, I am fully aware that I’ve made the opposite choice for elementary school which in total is more $$ over 9 years. But the differential between my public school options and private school options for ES right now, where I want to live, is much wider I believe than the difference between Directional U and a 2nd tier private university. Especially seeing friends/family/coworkers who are doing just fine with Directional U degrees.

  80. People benefit from earnings/dividends.

    But, you’re not comfortable with that. IIRC we ran the numbers and by the time you hit 75 the balance (including your parents and in-laws money) could be well into the 8 figures. You’re may be dealing with over a million in income. Do you create trusts that will be distributing to your kids and grad kids hundreds of thousands a year, each?

    I don’t get the impression you’ll be all that impressed with your grand daughter living in a lovely Manhattan condo working as a “film maker” funded entirely by her trust checks.

  81. “There IS an element of income and retained wealth along with the cultural part and the consumption choices.”

    True, and I was poking some fun earlier. But those are just elements, and certainly not the whole picture.

    This is the point where someone might mention Fussell’s book “Class,” but for some reason, that guy really rubs me the wrong way. I feel like his audience is a bunch of fourth-generation kids with diminished trust funds trying to define themselves upward and snicker at the Millionaire Next Door car wash owner.

  82. HM, great link. Statistics on household income and expectations rarely account for household size. Our financial systems (child tax credit phase-out, % of household income required from FAFSA for one child in college) make working class assumptions. As a society, we are torn about whether children are a personal choice, like a boat or a BMW, whose costs should minimally or not at all affect one’s tax burden or whether they are a social good.

  83. I am too busy right now calculating the MC versus UMC offsets between my 11 year old Camry or my chico s wardrobe and the 1935 Vacheron on my wrist as I am getting off the train for out of town met opera patrons weekend. WCE you had me covered.

  84. LFB-you might want to consider tax credits that are available for historic home renovations. Not sure if that is a state or federal (or both) benefit for restoring and maintaining an historic house and I have no idea how the credits work, but it might be something to look into before saying no to buying the house.

  85. I don’t know, Rhett. We’re not there yet, so I don’t worry about it. First things first, I want dividend income that exceeds either of our incomes.

    But what would you have me do? You don’t approve of MMM retiring, so we have to keep working. Just spend more, I guess?

  86. I just had a thought about LfB’s proposed home…..LfB you could recoup your cost by putting your home on a “historic home open house” circuit every fall, dress the family up in period costume and charge an entrance fee :-)

  87. LfB, would a renovated house be valuable? Where we live, people don’t want a renovated historical house but in San Francisco, I think such a house would be highly valued. The unfortunate effect of historic renovation laws in working/lower middle class areas is that historic houses fall into disrepair and are eventually demolished, usually by the city.

  88. LfB – Why are you thinking about moving to a different house in your same area? What is it about the potential new house that is appealing?

  89. Ada: Our ES was an arts magnet school, so lots of arts, music, theater, etc. However, science was an “ancillary” class (i.e. taught once a week), which is outrageous to me. Pick your poison.

    LFB: Run away from the house. Why voluntarily invite more problems into your life?

  90. I’m 80% decided on the latter. Just starting to set aside the cash now.

    But the other big thing, as I’ve always said, is that DW only remains employed as long as the conditions of her employment remain to her liking. Or so she says, at least. So we’ve always operated on the idea that the gravy train of her income could be cut off at any moment.

  91. LfB – run away. we live in an historic district south of boston. getting anything approved as well the costs could be prohibitive and very, very time consuming (think years) while various town boards toss around your requests. a house near me has been held up for a year because the historic board insists the new homeowners replace all the windows with replacements that would have been on the house in the early 1800s. now maybe your historic board is a little more lenient, but you should definitely find that out. oh, and everything will need to be run by your neighbors too,

  92. It sounds like historic home renovations are better suited to a “third generation” [wealth] kind of project. :)

  93. Milo, do you mean your DW would remain unemployed long-term or that she would change jobs/take a paycut/wait till Youngest Milo goes to school to find a job she preferred? I share some of your wife’s attitudes about prioritizing time with children and when I negotiated my maternity leave and return to work, it was with Mr WCE’s agreement that I could walk away from my job, at least for a time. As it is, I will be taking over the workload of a full-time retiring colleague as a 24 hour/week contractor… because I’m just that awesome and efficient.

  94. HM – All these numbers include everything bought at the main grocery store on the Amex we use for that. I looked it up, so reasonably close.

    when all 5 of us were last living in the house (18yo, 16yo, 13yo) our weekly grocery bills were ~$250, depending. DW would make a point of saying something if it were ever below $200, and often enough the number was closer to $300. I’d add another 50% to that to cover periodic stock up runs to our Costco equivalent, weekend trips to “just pick up a few things we’ll need before next Wednesday / for dinner on Sunday”, farm market fruit purchases in the summer, etc. So call it $350/week excluding outside food all-in, $1500/month.

    Now, with only 1 kid at home (16), the grocery store runs more like $150/wk and we do a lot less running out in between. So call it $900-$1000/month.

    But, you’re right, the offset is the dorm food (or groceries when it gets to be apartment time). Last school year dorm food bill was $2300/semester = $150/wk for one kid (ripoff). The other kid shared a house and ate pretty inexpensively, $75/wk was about what he spent at the grocery store (and I know that didn’t include beer, since you can’t buy beer in the grocery store where he is). This year they are both in apts and spend about the same rate.

    So, it seems like our overall costs are somewhat (~15%)higher than the $1500/month we had when there were 5 of us in the house. Then it was $350/wk, now it’s probably closer to $400. Economies of scale, more experienced shopper(s), some inflation, and all that.

  95. @Sheep Farmer — That’s actually the first place I went. And the applications and regs and options were really, really intimidating! Biggest problem is timing — house would need immediate work, but it’s probably an 18-month process to get approval, and you don’t get the credits unless you get approval before doing the work. So we’d have to look at doing some minimum work now, and then more after we get something approved.

    @WCE — I think so. We are in a neighborhood that people tend to buy into because they love old houses. But it might not be worth as much as the reno would cost.

    @NoB — Sigh. Partly because it’s an actual mansion that I have walked by since I was a kid, so there’s a big element of “you mean *I* could live there?”; plus I adore old homes, so the idea of bringing back a neighborhood landmark feels meaningful. Partly because it’s zoned for the MS that DD currently goes to (which is walkable = big deal for logistics), whereas the one we are currently zoned for is not walkable and will be a problem if DS has to go there. But also because it’s currently apartments, and it’s so cheap that I think it could be a really good investment (we’ve looked at current apartment rental rates in our neighborhood). We would buy it only if it would be cash-flow-positive while we owned it, and then we’d have the option of paying off the mortgage when we retire and then basically have a “real estate annuity” in perpetuity, with the added bonus of actually leaving an asset when we die. But have to offset that against the hassle and costs now.

    Of course, I also realize my third reason is inconsistent with my first two reasons. :-)

  96. I have a good friend who took on a house dating from (I believe) the late 1600’s, in a historic district north of Boston, a very famous historic district. He and his wife did a lot of renovating, and dealt with all of the stringent regulations. They loved the process. It was their hobby. And they are definite UMC, not mega-wealthy people.

  97. Agree with Milo’s assessment, too — I am probably one generation shy of actually being in a position to do this. :-) But, damn.

  98. WCE – I think she would be happy as a full-time SAHM. I don’t know if, when the kids got older, she would feel like going back to work. She probably doesn’t even know.

    We could live a little more efficiently, and I think if she were going to be unemployed for a long time, we would look into taking on active real estate investing, probably structuring it as some sort of private business or trust. We would have plenty of leverage available. Lately, she’s down to about 15 hours a week (you won’t believe me, but she’s doing the work of a FTE in that time), and she’s been able to add at least one, sometimes two Pilates classes. So complaints are way down. Fingers crossed that nothing changes.

  99. “DW only remains employed as long as the conditions of her employment remain to her liking.”

    What a great situation.

    Reminds me of how some older folks have told me how much more enjoyable their jobs got once they became eligible, and financially comfortable enough, to retire.

  100. “As a society, we are torn about whether children are a personal choice, like a boat or a BMW, whose costs should minimally or not at all affect one’s tax burden or whether they are a social good.”

    The amount of tax money we spend on schools, and the income tax exemptions suggests otherwise; we’re just torn on how much kids should affect our tax burdens.

  101. “there’s a big element of “you mean *I* could live there?”

    When DW and I were much younger, we’d visit her parents, and sometimes drive up the road nearby where the “rich people” lived (when she was a kid, the assumption was that anyone who lived there was rich) and look at the houses. We’d tell each other that one day, we’d live there too. Then we’d have a good laugh.

    Fast forward several years, to a time when the bottom fell out of the real estate market, just as we’re looking for a house, and we were able to buy a house there. I don’t think we could afford our house now, but we really lucked out in our timing.

  102. Milo, I have little doubt that your wife can do the work of an FTE in 15 hr/week. Once you know your job, if you don’t have to go to meetings and can focus on work, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. I have to get over the hurdle of learning a new job. My manager knows just how dedicated I am and took me back anyway. As long as Mr WCE is employed, my income after taxes and childcare doesn’t make a big difference to our family situation. I am free from the stress of maintaining a multi-generational nest egg.

    I think I would have liked being a SAHM more if my kids were more spaced out. I started the job with three kids under two, which is kind of like being a childcare worker 7-24 and having to keep house on top of it.

  103. “I think I would have liked being a SAHM more if my kids were more spaced out.”

    This could be interpreted in multiple ways.

  104. “the 401(k) has you set aside money pretax and pay taxes when you withdraw”

    Not if your 401k is a Roth 401k.

  105. “Which brings up the side note that perhaps one marker of “not MC” is “makes decisions based on tax benefits,” regardless of income or savings thresholds.”

    I think a lot of MC folks would be up in arms at any suggestion of eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, unless it only applied to people richer than they.

  106. “As long as Mr WCE is employed, my income after taxes and childcare doesn’t make a big difference to our family situation.”

    If you have access to a 401(k) and you can contribute substantially, that’s a fair chunk of change that you never see that just keeps growing in the background.

    “My manager knows just how dedicated I am and took me back anyway.”

    lol.

  107. Finn,

    The median home price in the US is $188k. At 3.75% you’re looking at $6,990 in interest the first year and the married filing jointly standard deduction is $12,600. So, “a lot” might be a but of a stretch.

  108. Rhett – I think that the number of people who believe that they benefit from the mortgage interest deduction is at least three times as high as the number who actually benefit.

  109. Alright – LFB – I will be the lone voice of crazy here. We just went under contract for a big, terrible home in a neighborhood we know well. You may recall, we recently moved to bigger, better and more suburban. We weren’t even looking. However, we heard about this house the day it came on the market and it has so many things we want – into our old school district, near several families we have relationships with, and urban enough to walk to groceries, library and (importantly!) a bar. So (in the most impulsive move of our marriage) we made a competitive offer and got it. It is old, but not historic – we are only bound by local codes. I have to say, I am brimming with excitement and happiness about this project.

    A few reasons this will work (for us): First, I am decisive, DH is agreeable. That means I can pick out a faucet, floor tile and countertops quickly and with minimal input from him. Second, we don’t have to live there while we do this. We will stay in our current home until the lion’s share of the work is done. Third, this isn’t our first rodeo. We have done major projects in the past together. I can already predict the content of the fights we will have about this. Last, we can afford to outsource pretty much everything we don’t want to do.

    The historic aspect adds a layer of difficulty, but it may not be terrible. (I say that because I really know nothing about this). Is it possible to have a conversation with a local general contractor who specializes in these types of projects? I would expect they would be able to offer you a clear sense of the actual time line and costs you could expect.

  110. P.S. Thanks for the anecdata on art class. The long story above means that my complaints about the local school district have dulled to musings more than screeching – we will likely change at the semester to a school we are already familiar with.

  111. “MND thrifty small business owner isn’t really “middle class” either except in appearances, I would argue.”

    I would think that a lot of MNDs are Ms because they have middle class SOL and spending habits.

  112. Milo,

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the Millionaire Next Door concept of “economic outpatient care?” Would not the purpose of your dynastic trust be to provide economic outpatient care in perpetuity?

  113. @Rhett — no end goals yet. Or, rather, mutually inconsistent end goals of fabulous SFH vs. perpetual real estate annuity. I guess one option would be to reconvert part to one big owner’s unit and maintain the rentals on the rest. Or keep it as rentals now and then when we retire sell our current house and make a smaller owner’s suite to live in.

    I think maybe I’m also just bored. We’ve been here for 11+ years now — before that, we’d barely managed 3 years in the same house and job since we met. And it’s all good and exactly what I wanted (knock on wood). But I’m restless and bored with my job and our habits and routines and all that. So I think this has just grabbed me on an emotional level; even though I know that logically we probably don’t have the head space or free cash to take it on, and even though I can’t define *why* I want it, I Just Want It.

  114. ” I have the UMC assumption that we’re going to be paying for this ourselves, and that we should be able to do this, but damn. If you want to be able to say, “Wherever you can get in, we can send you,” you’re potentially talking over quarter of a million per kid.”

    Well over a quarter million for your younger kids.

    But you’re sounding a bit like WCE here. Your kids will probably have a lot of options above directional and lesser-tier schools, e.g., flagships and selective schools using merit aid to boost their academic profiles, especially if they are NMSF.

    Milo, HM is looking at potentially over $800k in college costs, and NMSF is a golden key to cut that way down. Perhaps the obsession with NMSF is understandable in that light.

  115. HM, some quick math shows that at a 5% inflation rate, the cost for of 4 years of college for a current 8th grader at a school that currently costs $65k/year would be about $360k.

    So the $800k number for you may be quite a bit low.

    I believe Khan Academy has free SAT prep classes. DS likes some of the SAT prep books I got for my Kindle when they were on sale.

  116. Finn said “Your kids will probably have a lot of options above directional and lesser-tier schools, e.g., flagships and selective schools using merit aid to boost their academic profiles, especially if they are NMSF.”

    Do you think that counting on NMSF status as a college financial planning tool is a good idea? What percentage of even UMC kids attain that status? It isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion.

  117. LfB, I have a sister who bought a relatively huge, historical property in a Northeast state. The house was a shambles when she bought it, but the property it sits on is beyond wonderful. At the time, her kids were in college and her ex-husband was still on the hook for many things. She was also working at a satisfying but time-consuming job.

    She loved the project! She bought a relatively modest house in the neighborhood in which to live during the reconstruction and supervised the contractors at the old house daily. She sent progress pictures about once a week. All in all, it took her about 3 years to move in. And she had to get a lot of approvals, but she had knowledgeable contractors. Few people thought the house could be restored. Fewer people believe that she didn’t turn it into a B & B but lives there alone with her boyfriend (can one call a guy that old a “boyfriend”?). It took her a lot of time and money, she loved the project, and she now has a showplace.

    She has since done this with two other “vacation” properties– neither of which had a was a historical landmark, but both of which were significant but smaller projects. Needless to say, she is fun to visit (if one can put one’s jealousy away) and is one of the most contented people I know property-wise.

  118. Well, I don’t think UC Santa Cruz (a top choice of my oldest) is giving out any merit aid to out of state students. They’re not even doing the WUE tuition, and they’re typical of the UC system in this. Neither is U of Washington or U of Oregon or Oregon State or Colorado-Boulder. The limitation on merit aid to in-state could make some of the privates more financially competitive for OOS students, but I don’t want to count on generous aid as my main strategy for paying for college. And if I’m going to be considering places based purely on their generous NMSF aid, to me it makes sense to also consider places located someplace that a given kid would enjoy spending four years, if they have respectable academics, even if they’re not impressive names.

    Mind you, I’m not telling my youngest he can’t apply to MIT (his dream school) in six years. And by then perhaps we’ll be broke enough for a good aid package! I just want to have a backup plan.

  119. Rhett, do you think the inflation rate for college costs will slow significantly before HM’s kids graduate?

  120. My oldest has been doing some test prep on Khan this week ^_^. This year’s test is just for practice, though.

  121. Sorry Finn, I misread your time line. When HM, grandkids are college age at 5% a school that is now 60k would be $360k a year.

  122. HM, I listen to my network about where people get good out of state packages. Texas A&M and USC are two western schools I may encourage my children to apply to. I am aiming for Flagship/Land Grant universities for my crew, not Directional State U’s, unless they have a particular interest (medical specialty, etc.) that is best served by one of those schools. (Mount Hood Community College has a great physical therapy assistant program.)

    Your MIT comment reminds me of a radio jingle from my childhood, “People like you like Iowa State! People like you like Iowa State! People like you like Iowa State. Iowa State Savings Bank’s for people like you.” I haven’t thought of that in decades.

  123. HM, I don’t consider UCSC (go Banana Slugs!) a directional or lesser-tier school. It is, after all, a UC.

    I think my strategy is similar to yours in that I want my kids to look at places we can afford without having to count on merit aid.

    OTOH, there are some pretty good schools that have been pretty generous with merit aid, even for non-NMSF (USC is a prominent one; there are several kids of people we know who got generous merit aid packages at USC despite not being NMSF), and many of the flagships that offer generous merit aid also have honors colleges. Thus my encouragement to my kids to aspire to the top tier schools, in hopes of getting merit aid to lower tier, but still very good, schools.

    “And by then perhaps we’ll be broke enough for a good aid package!”

    After paying for your first two, you may be quite broke. OTOH, not paying tuition through HS might preclude that. Had we conservatively invested the tuition we’ve been paying, I think we’d be able to pay for both kids to attend any college for 4 years each.

  124. Rhett – I want you to ask SoFL Mom all these questions if she ever comes back. Right now, we have enough capital invested to “retire” and just about cover our living expenses on the MMM 4% safe withdrawal rate, if we got a little more frugal. I’d have to draw down taxable investments while putting the retirement accounts on a five-year Roth conversion, then be eligible to withdraw “contributions,” if conversions count as contributions. Health insurance costs would make that harder, but maybe I’d qualify for subsidies.

    Anyway, we’re not doing that. And we’re not exactly sitting on any 8-figure portfolio now. I don’t know how we’ll handle transfers in the future. Ideally, the kids would more or less share our philosophy, but we’ll have to see. And a lot depends on their spouses.

    Other possibilities I consider include having a grandchild with Down’s Syndrome. Things like that can come up, and suddenly there’s a very good use for a chunk of money, to make the parents’ lives a lot closer to normal again.

    So I don’t know, but we’ll burn those bridges when we get there.

    Finn and HM – why do you guys never seem to consider your state schools? Are they not that strong? Do your kids all have Island Fever?

  125. Finn, I didn’t mean to imply that Santa Cruz was a directional. I was using it as an example of a “good” state school that is expensive for OOS and wouldn’t offer merit aid or the discounted WUE tuition.

    Finn — UH Manoa is fine. It’s not a Michigan or Berkeley, but it’s a typical enough state flagship and in some areas (astronomy) it has top programs. And there are a couple of privates on this island that are also fine. UH Hilo shows up on some of those lists of best bargains for OOS students. Even the community college that would be the most likely one for one of my kids to go to has a nice campus, a top culinary program, and the usual CC classes that would feed you into the state flagship. But for kids who grow up in Hawaii, it’s good to get the experience living somewhere else. It’s good for kids in other places too — kids in your area probably have no real idea what it’s like to live in New Mexico or Minnesota — but especially so here, where you can’t drive a few hours to a different place.

  126. “we’ll burn those bridges when we get there.”

    LOL. I think most people cross them.

  127. Milo,

    If you were in SoFl mom’s position and had a good natured, smart ambitious kid who was doing well. What would his college allowance be? I’m curious to see your number.

  128. “I didn’t mean to imply that Santa Cruz was a directional. I was using it as an example of a “good” state school that is expensive for OOS and wouldn’t offer merit aid or the discounted WUE tuition.”

    Yes, it might be a better example of a state school that may cost more than a highly selective private school. The older brother of one of DS’ friends got into Yale and UCB, and even without aid, Yale was not much more than UCB.

    Milo, for my kids it’s also a cultural thing. While UHM is the school to which more grads go than any other, the vast majority of kids go OOS.

    As discussed earlier, I may encourage them to attend grad school at UHM.

  129. All this college cost talk stresses me out. I tried to talk DS into applying to the University of Alabama, but as he said, it would mean spending four years in Alabama.
    He’s got a mix of schools and costs. But hes already been accepted to WCEs alma mater with generous aid so we have a cheap option.

  130. IIRC, SoFL’s DS was an only child, and they had money to burn. He was also an outstanding student.

    Were I in her shoes, I’d definitely pay for him to go to a highly selective school.

    IIRC again, he might be in the process of applying right now, especially if he had a strong preference. Without having to worry about financial aid, he’s the ideal EA candidate.

  131. BL, that’s what DS told me when I told him about how generous Bama is with NMF aid. He was similarly receptive to Oklahoma. He was initially more receptive to ASU, but I’m not sure that’s still the case; it’s not a school he wants to visit next summer.

    OTOH, if he makes NMSF, I think USC and Northeastern would still be on his list.

  132. Rhett – allowance like spending money, or where would I encourage him to go? I don’t know, and anywhere. I’d also ask him to seriously consider the military for a number of reasons, actual exposure to socioeconomic diversity high among them, and also, why the Hell not? With that kind of money and connections, the investment banks will be there in five years.

    Finn – it’s intentional:

  133. Milo,

    As in spending money and assuming he’s living on campus with a meal plan? Pick a number.

  134. Why the hell not?

    No interest? If you had a passion for the sea and ended up a captain, I could see it. But, for all that extra work – what would be the payoff?

  135. $250 a week? That’s barely a nice dinner. I’m thinking $2,500 at least.

    $1,000 was what totebag level kids were getting 20 years ago.

  136. I think my kids’ allowance, assuming living on campus with a meal plan, will be a nice round number.

  137. There’s got to be some understanding of what things cost/what it means to work, blah blah blah. It’s just part of education.

    Rhett- I knew a guy in college, two years behind me, whose 16th bday present was an SL500 convertible. In school, there are certain “watch” assignments people have to fill, which will sometimes cost you a Saturday or Sunday off. He used to pay people to take whatever watched he was assigned. :)

  138. I’m taking the kids to visit UC Santa Cruz next weekend, for DD who loves the rain, it might be a good choice that keeps her closer to home – and importantly, in-state.

  139. I you like the Bay Area, my Silicon Valley friends tell me that San José State’s engineering program is very well-regarded. San Francisco State, not so much. And if the Bay Area is the goal, have you considered University of Santa Clara? Jesuit school, pretty good reputation generally.

  140. If it is raining in the bay it rains in the Santa Cruz Mountains – and actually foggy works good for her too. Yes, absolutely considering University of Santa Clara and will take her there, was going to do it on the same trip, but turns out UCSC coincidentally is have a large recruitment event Saturday – which I found out about after booking a Friday tour – so were booked up. I doubt she will go engineering so not sure about San Jose State. Might go look at UC Merced – brand new! But then you have to spend 4 years in Merced and probably not foggy or rainy.

  141. We, too, have Bama and Oklahoma are on our list, along with Texas A&M and UT. However, DS’s heart is set on a school out East. Small, competitive, #1 in his chosen field of study. $60K a year.

  142. HM – what about UC Davis for the aspiring vet ? A colleague’s daughter got in there, they were OOS – I looked it up and it had a pretty program in life sciences.

  143. I’ve completely ruled out California public schools unless they start offering merit aid/out of state tuition waivers. San Jose State is not worth $39k, the list cost for out-of-state students.I know this because I’ve never heard of it.

    HM, WSU is a good school and eligible for WUE tuition.

  144. HM – you mentioned geology and I thought about Colorado School of Mines – a College Confidential preferred school for that subject.

  145. He used to pay people to take whatever watched he was assigned. :)

    Hence he need for a dynastic trust. They sure do come in handy.

  146. Yeah, Colorado School of Mines has a good local rep, and I understand it’s one of the best should you happen to want to major in mining engineering.

    And WCE, if my friends at Amazon and Agilent think SJSU is a decent program, maybe you should get out more. But only if they offer scholarship money.

  147. Thanks for the suggestion, RMS,

    Louise, unfortunately Davis is another one that doesn’t do the Western Undergraduate Exchange (students from participating states pay only 1.5x instate tuition), so their annual cost comes out at almost $60K/year for us. Neither does Colorado School of Mines, it looks like, although you’re right that it could otherwise be an interesting prospect.

  148. WCE, WSU also does a NMSF scholarship (not full ride though) so it’s on the radar screen!

  149. My Banana Slug (marine bio) got OOS merit aid. But times have changed. 15 yrs ago OOS list including the dorm and meal plan was about 25K. Wow.

    LfB. I have known many people who bore easily, and are profoundly dissatisfied unless they are stretched to the point of self destructiveness. But you have three others to consider. Wait until the nest is empty or nearly so. If you find yourself seriously pursuing this property, call your doc and get your meds (if any) tweaked.

  150. 16th bday present was an SL500

    That would have been a 1994? IIRC that year’s SL 500 weighed as much as that years Chevy Suburban – 4600lbs. The thing was a tank!

  151. “But then you have to spend 4 years in Merced and probably not foggy or rainy.”

    Don’t they get a lot of valley fog in Merced? Has that gone away with the drought?

  152. RMS, I admit I’ve heard about San Jose State University from you and other Bay Area folks, so I was exaggerating a little bit. But if you’re willing to come babysit, I’d be delighted to get out more.

  153. “San José State’s engineering program is very well-regarded”

    When I was in the area, it, along with Santa Clara, provided a lot of the engineers, especially when there was an opening that needed to be filled right away, so you couldn’t wait to fill it with someone from the national recruiting pool. I also knew a number of SJS grads who worked their way through school in the tech industry with support from their employers.

    “San Jose State is not worth $39k, the list cost for out-of-state students.I know this because I’ve never heard of it.”

    A lot of the SJS alums I knew started at CCs. Combine the lower cost of CCs, employer support, and availability of jobs, and IMO SJS is worth considering for a wannabe EE.

  154. Tule fog! Yes, Merced gets it.

    HM, looking at the list of California schools that participate in the WUE program, my highly biased opinion is that UC Merced and CSU Northridge are the best candidates. In Colorado, CSU in Ft. Collins is very good (CSU Pueblo, not so much). And take a look at Fort Lewis College. It’s small, it’s in a gorgeous setting, and it is kind of like a public liberal arts college. Kind of. I mean it’s not Oberlin or anything, but a lot of people really like it. Denver Dad, do you have any thoughts? If I were guiding a child to an in-state school, I’d look closely at Fort Lewis.

  155. Rhett – that one stood out to me. A more popular choice among the kids with wealthy parents was the M3 convertible.

  156. I’ve heard that WSU is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and thus might not be a good match for some kids. I’m also reminded of a regular (I don’t remember who) warning about the dangers of schools where kids need to make their own fun.

  157. Milo,

    Jay Leno’s garage starts on CNBC tonight you might want to set the DVR. Seattle, your son might like it as well until the new top gear returns on Amazon.

  158. The UCs have become more selective as well as more expensive: http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentItemRelationshipId=5916244 .

    And then you’ve got to wonder how much someone who’s not currently caught up in the madness is even going to distinguish between all these different state schools when looking at a resume. You’ve got your “Oooh, name school,” your “Local school I know the reputation of,” and then there’s your “Some college somewhere else, looks public/private” category where you’re more interested in the degree than in the nuances of the school’s reputation.

  159. SJS is probably comparable to VCU. Sure, it’s a good school. Generally, people don’t say that someplace is a horrible school, especially not one that maintains accredited programs. In its region, people have heard of it and know some great people who went there.

  160. “UC Merced and CSU Northridge are the best candidates.”

    HM is probably aware of this, but CSU Northridge goes by CSUN these days.

  161. Thank you, RMS! It really is helpful to get your impressions of those WUE-eligible schools since so many of the better-known schools aren’t on the list.

  162. I’d take falling admission rates with a grain of salt. I believe that over that same time period, the average number of applications/kid has gone up a lot, and most colleges’ admission rates have gone down.

    I am curious about what appears to be a big one-year dip at UC Davis.

    And BTW, any kid who really likes road cycling should look into UC-Davis.

  163. RMS, the CSUN sports teams used to go by Cal State Northridge, but more recently have gone by CSUN, two syllables (sea, sun). That can be a bit confusing to those not aware of the change (I know from experience).

  164. Milo my $0.02 is there is some risk in everything and I think the anti-crumb-rubber people are kind of like the vaccinations-cause-autism people. The artificial turf movement, crumb-rubber and all, is fully in force here. Main benefits: low/almost zero maintenance, the ability to use the field regardless of weather, and because there’s no worry of e.g. the football team tearing up the same field the soccer team needs for a game, they are more multi-use. Personally I prefer grass, but my kids only gripe about playing on fake stuff when it’s hot.

  165. “$1,000 was what totebag level kids were getting 20 years ago.”

    Wow. Coincidentally, I just got my SS statement, and I made less than $1000 per year at my work study, which was basically my monthly spending money. SO not Totebag. (I also just realized that the deli must have paid me under the table, because I made more than that over the summer).

    @Milo. I have never even heard of “crumb rubber.” But this is seriously the most important thing they have to worry about? I particularly like the “well, the studies say it’s safe, but the science isn’t 100% conclusive.” Yes: because “good” science is always 100% conclusive, with no qualifications necessary. But, hey, clearly it’s worth paying extra tax dollars for organic artificial turf just to make sure there’s zero risk — it’s not like there are any other things that would have a bigger impact on public health that they could spend the $ on, right?

    I take back everything I wrote above. The UMC is clearly killing America.

  166. HM – do you think the merit aid that your kids could get at a good private school would balance out with the 1.5x instate rate?

    I have also heard that WSU is quite remote.

  167. WSU is essentially in Idaho, and I think U of I is a better quality institution for your WUE (the two schools are less than 10 miles apart. In Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA. Which are both seaports, for your random trivia for the day. And both very remote, and very very far from the sea.

    UAF is lovely, and Fairbanks is delightful. Not only do they offer a NMSF full tuition, they take WUE.

  168. It can be difficult making the final decision on your kid’s school, sometimes particularly if you can afford* to pay full price.
    What do you think you would do in this case?

    Costs over four years (all numbers approximate):
    A. Perfectly fine state school: $92,000
    B. Highly ranked (30ish) very good school, with merit aid: $175,000
    C. Dream school ranked top ten (5 or higher): $265,000

    First, is B worth $83k more than A? If yes, is C worth $90k more than B? Costs can creep up.

    *Afford = able to pay without materially affecting your retirement lifestyle

  169. Afford = able to pay without materially affecting your retirement lifestyle

    Wouldn’t afford also be about how much you want it to impact your lifestyle while they are in school? The state school is $1,900/month which anyone at the totebag median income should be able to cash flow without too much undue hardship. Even the middle tier at $3600 is doable but you’d really have to go the full MMM.

    It seems to me the savings and affordability discussion is mostly about your lifestyle when they are in school.

  170. The $1900 a month or $3600 a month would be freed up by reducing retirement contributions.

    When two kids are attending simultaneously, that become $3800 a month or $7200 a month. Finn – do you have any more info on this NMSF thing? I hear they give scholarships. :)

  171. “The $1900 a month or $3600 a month would be freed up by reducing retirement contributions.”

    Or by borrowing (against home equity, 401k, federal loans, etc.). There are ways parents can make it happen. But the chickens come home to roost at retirement.

  172. I am still in awe of some neighbors who cut down their expenses while their kids were in college — got rid of a car, no new clothes, no maid service, no vacations, etc. I used to see him walking to work sometimes, but their kids graduated with no loans.

  173. Milo,

    You think on $270k a year you can’t squeeze $1900 a month out of the budget relatively painlessly without reducing your retirement contributions?

  174. CoC, if I had only one child, I would decided based on the RoI on what the kid wanted to do.

    If it was management consulting or i-banking, choice (c) is going to make that a lot easier and the cost will be recouped in her future earnings.

    If she wants to go into teaching or be an entrepreneur, I would push for (a) to minimize the debt load.

    If it’s something like a Ph.D. in literature to be a college professor, then there is a real conflict between saving the money at (a) and improving the likelihood of ever being employed in that role by going to school (c).

    I’m not sure I would pay for school (b) unless it was the top school in the student’s field, and the student was very committed to the field.

  175. I read into Honolulu’s tuition exchange link. It seems that you only qualify for in-state tuition if the field of study is not available in your home state university. Is this correct? This is the first time I’ve heard of this program.

  176. “It seems that you only qualify for in-state tuition if the field of study is not available in your home state university. Is this correct? ”

    Generally, yes. And there are a limtied number of spots.

  177. in case of one colleague I know, his wife started a job after being home for almost all of his kids childhoods. They had money put aside and both kids went in state to college – state flagship but his wife starting to work means extra money coming no loans at all for the kids.

  178. Rhett – I’m trying to get our total spending to around $4k a month. A $1900 monthly tuition allocation would significantly affect that.

  179. Milo,

    Wouldn’t the point of low monthly expenses be that you have slack in the budget if something comes up?

  180. “Afford = able to pay without materially affecting your retirement lifestyle”

    Assuming that this is true and all else is equal between the schools (e.g., one doesn’t specialize in what my kid wants to study), then either (a) or (c), depending on the kid. My bias is towards (c), because they are going to have top-quality teachers, smaller classes/seminars (note: I am assuming a SLAC not the top BigStateU), plus the Rhett connection factor. If I can afford it, that’s an awesome gift to be able to give a kid. OTOH, if I have a middling-student-introverted-kid who isn’t all that fired up about academics and won’t really appreciate or take advantage of the top-tier bit, then the state school makes more sense.

    Of course, in my world, “able to pay without materially affecting your retirement lifestyle” means that I have about $400K set aside for college so I can easily cash-flow the rest over 8 yrs. :-)

  181. Sky, would your decision be different if you could afford to pay for all options with no or negligible loans? Would you be willing to indulge your child their dream school, even if the ROI were questionable?

  182. LFB, Yes, paying for B seems like a poor choice, especially if it is down int 50-100 rankings. Unless B is an extraordinarily good fit, then it may make more sense to go big or go home. All this is assuming it’s affordable,of course.

  183. Sky, a PhD in literature doesn’t require a top undergrad school. Your hypothetical student needs to go to a decent undergraduate institution, do really well, and score really well on the GRE. After that, the graduate school is all that matters, and for literature they should pay the student to be a TA or RA or something like that.

  184. “Wouldn’t the point of low monthly expenses be that you have slack in the budget if something comes up?”

    Sure, but until it does, the surplus goes into investments, broadly referred to as “retirement.”

  185. broadly referred to as “retirement.”

    I thought you were aiming for a dynastic trust i.e. assets wildly in excess of what is needed to maintain your lifestyle in retirement.

  186. Milo,

    I’m thinking you have $92k put away for lil’ Milo to go to U of Virginia and they get into MIT or Cal Tech and it’s going to another $30k/year. Ok, well, we’ll keep Odyssey for a few more years, rent out the lake house for the summer (we don’t go there enough anyway), let the cleaning lady know here services won’t be required for a time, etc.

  187. All this money talk made me check our credit card statement. With six days remaining in the billing cycle, I’m around $2700 (after subtracting reimbursable travel expenses). This is down quite a bit, and the thing is, I can’t even tell you what we’re not buying. Maybe if I budgeted everything into categories…

  188. “I thought you were aiming for a dynastic trust i.e. assets wildly in excess of what is needed to maintain your lifestyle in retirement.”

    Right now just aiming for choices, honestly. I don’t think I want to retire at 50, but, as crazy as this sounds, at 50 I might feel like doing something where I’m outside more (actually, I feel like doing that now). What on Earth that would be, I don’t know. Charter boat operator?

    “let the cleaning lady know her services won’t be required for a time”

    Never!

  189. This is down quite a bit, and the thing is, I can’t even tell you what we’re not buying.

    You can be really annoying without even trying, you know that? My credit card statement is up to $5K this month and I have no idea what we’re buying. I mean yes, I can see all the charges, but why do they add up to so much?

  190. Sorry, Rocky. You’re a lot richer than me, so proportionally, it’s fine.

    Any car maintenance in there? Two routine things can be $600.

  191. My cc bill this month is $5700 but $2000 of that is materials for a bathroom reno and $400 is orthodontist. So I’ll call it $3300 with a week left in the cycle and be proud of ourselves.:)

  192. But the thing is, Milo, if I had three darling little kids like you do, I’d piss away all kinds of money on them. I suppose on the other hand I wouldn’t fly out and spend the weekend with my old buds, though.

  193. Well, we went C for DD, and will probably go B for DS.
    It’s all based on the kid, and what they want to do and how they’d fit in. For DS, he’d be miserable at a tippy- top school; he’s just not wired that way. Our in-state state schools suck, quite frankly, so we’d be looking at out of state tuition anyway. And at many state schools, it’s five years to graduate, so add another year of tuition and a year of lost earnings, and the difference between A and B narrows.
    I’m cautious about what I say online about my kids, but for my kids, this was the best choice. As with all things in parenting, YMMV.

  194. Gah. All this college talk is making UMass Amherst look pretty good!!!

    Milo, our mortgage alone is over $4K/month. You must have a LOT of free cash flow. ;)

  195. The a b c decision is the one that my niece is facing. C is not on the dice, mom and daughter don’t want a except as a financial fallback, so b is the default. Slacks from 25 to 50 in ranking, 25 a big reach. The one non slac is Clark, which is her current first choice and the most likely to give merit aid, but mom wants to steer her to a leafier school smaller pond for her fish, so she forbids early decision. Amount of aid will drive the final decision. Parents are already 59 and 63, and special needs sis is 18 mos younger, income very low six figures, and they are thrifty, paid for house, paid up whole life as primary investment, modest savings, expected inheritance 350k, and likely to live into their 90s. going all in on a slac seems to me, my daughters, and to niece s dad (also the in law, like me) a waste of money they don’t really have.

  196. “if I had three darling little kids like you do, I’d piss away all kinds of money on them”

    Not if you were drowning in LEGO pieces and other plastic and stuffed toys.

    Our church just had a big kids’ clothes consignment sale, and DW got a ton of stuff for them. They’re not quite old enough to care that it’s used. We got a $70 check for the stuff that we sold.

    L – Things come up, though. I was really thinking of regular monthly spending, but not counting things like vacations or property taxes. And then a car will need new tires, and it’s $800 to $1,000, depending.

  197. L – Personally, I’m thinking UMass Lowell, with the kids living at home and commuting!

  198. Yeah, I need to change my earlier answer — pretty sure I was being Totebag-correct. If I can afford to send my kid to a top-tier school, and s/he can get in, and it’s a good fit, then that’s it right there. I mean, if we have $200K+ saved for college (per the earlier hypothetical), and DD comes home with an admission letter from Stanford or Williams or MIT or something (anti-Harvard bias, sorry), and she’s excited and really wants to go, I really just can’t see myself saying, sorry, Maryland’s cheaper. And in fact, we are saving aggressively to try to make that an option for our kids.

    OTOH, I could see having a conversation that says “we can blow this all now and you’re on your own for grad school, or you can go cheap now and have $$ left for grad school or a house or whatever” and letting it be her decision. But I’m kidding myself if I think I’d just say no. I was raised by a couple of English profs, after all. :-)

  199. NoB – I remember going on a trip with my best friend in high school when we were juniors to look at some New England colleges and for some reason we stopped at UMass Lowell. I remember there being police tape around some building and so we left.

    If we stay here I assume my kids could get the Hope Scholarship and go to UGA or Tech for practically free. We’re saving $400 per month per kid just in case because who knows where we’ll be living in ten years when it’s time for my oldest to go. Right now she wants to go to our SLAC which is about $60K per year now, but I’m sure she’ll change her mind. I would love it if she went there but then there would probably be no money from us for grad school so that’s a choice she’d have to make.

    Milo – so the $4K spending per month includes utilities, etc?

  200. WSU is in Pullman, Washington, not Clarkston. It’s your standard land grant engineering school in a college team with a bad football team. You will have to move/take off semesters to do an internship or coop in your field but the research opportunities in Pullman are good because of the school’s history. It has some of the oldest dorms west of the Mississippi. It’s Mr WCE’s alma mater (so the boys hear about it frequently and with affection) and on my list of possibilities if the boys don’t want to ride the bus to our land grant engineering school.

  201. ATM – yes and no. This is a very “high-level” assessment.

    Comcast goes on the credit card, so does natural gas, I think? Electric draws from checking. But it’s Fall, anyway, so utility use is very low.

  202. I am saying this now but both my kids, would tend towards mid sized or larger schools. Smaller, remote, far off schools would be less appealing. The flagships/bigger colleges are two plus hours from us. There is a city campus of the state university so if all else fails they can commute and live at home.

  203. Yikes. Corrected by Wce. I was totally wrong. Pullman and Moscow, respectively, still about 10 miles apart, but not seaports. So shamed for so many reasons. But, U kfIdaho is as close as Idaho gets to flagship, WSU has long lived in UW shadow.

  204. “There is a city campus of the state university so if all else fails they can commute and live at home.”

    OTOH, this would be my DD’s nightmare; her dream school is a pretty campus that is small enough for her to rule, big enough to keep her constantly entertained, up north because she hates the heat — and most of all, far enough away that there is zero chance of any kind of parental involvement or visits. :-)

    My current ID on her contacts list is “The Birth-Giver”; when she leaves for school, I have a feeling it will change to “The Check-Writer.”

  205. Ada, 34 miles is no big deal in eastern Washington. :) And I agree that WSU will always be ranked second to UW, in the same way that Michigan Tech will always be ranked second to U of M, but in terms of friendships and receiving attention as an undergrad, land grant schools in college towns may have advantages. My brothers chose engineering school at U of Iowa because they wanted smaller classes than Iowa State offered in their majors. I liked the camaraderie of being one of ~50 graduates in my major that year; my brothers didn’t want to be one of several hundred graduates in their fields.

    You almost have to know what you want to major in to pick a school.

    Milo, with the addition of piano lessons, our baseline is ~$4k, and that excludes childcare and extraordinary expenses (plane tickets to Iowa, Baby WCE’s medical expenses). You’re about where we are.

  206. “Maybe if I budgeted everything into categories…”

    You might be able to download your credit card transactions into a spreadsheet, and sort them.

  207. “I am assuming a SLAC not the top BigStateU”

    Depending on which rankings you use, most top 5/top 10 schools are big private school, not SLACs or BigStateUs.

  208. CoC, I was working on a similar question as a standalone topic for a day.

    But since you asked, for DS, we’d pay for whatever school he really wants to go to, assuming we can afford it. He’s exceeded our expectations academically, has been largely low maintenance, and I think he would really enjoy the experience of a top5/top10 school. We’ve already paid a ton of money on tuition for him, and seeing him thrive and enjoy school so much has made it totally worth it. I see no reason to not continue into college IF we can easily afford it.

    For DD, we’d lean that way as well, but she would need to earn it with her academic performance as well as her attitude. She’s showing good signs academically, but some not so good signs in her attitude.

  209. Houston, the Western states exchange (Texas is not part of it) isn’t limited to majors not offered at home, and while some participating schools have limited slots, many of them appear to offer it freely as long as you apply on time. But I haven’t looked into how the other regional exchanges work and they be the more limited version CoC described. It’s worth looking into to see what yours looks like, anyhow!

    Ada, thanks for the tip on U of A Fairbanks. He wants to go somewhere cold and rainy (weird, I know, but that’s what happens when you grow up in Honolulu and get to the age where you want to go somewhere different).

    My impression was that U of Idaho, U of Montana or Montana State Bozeman, or U of Wyoming all looked like good possibilities for someone who’s interested in trying four northern winters.

  210. For a Harvard or similar school, if we can swing it (and Harvard’s generous financial aid means it would be less painful than at many others) we would. For a Wesleyan or Reed, it would get tougher — still a great school experience, but you’re not going to have the same level of name recognition and network as a graduate, so if the price was significantly higher than a decent alternative it would be harder to justify. After that, it seems like if the money works out similarly, student’s preference.

  211. Honolulumother – But I think Wesleyen and Reed are very well known in their regions – so if your son or daughter got in there with some merit aid, and decided to stay in those areas of the country after graduation, the schools would probably be quite helpful when seeking employment.

    That is IF they want to pursue that type of school – they may prefer a big state school with football, etc. and a variety of majors to think about

  212. And thinking of deciding “yes” to Harvard or Stanford but “not so sure” to other excellent schools, I think the facts are that those schools are so hard to get into now that the chances of many of the tote bag teens getting admitted are pretty small. My niece’s experience two years ago with Ivies and her stellar qualifications showed me that – unless you have a hook (URM, athlete, alum) it is pretty tough. Not to say that they won’t, but the more likely schools for a very strong student (who has the qualifications to go to Harvard or MIT) are Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Rice, UVA, Pomona, etc.

    That type of decision may have to be made, so it is probably worth mulling over in advance.

  213. SSK, HM, I agree, the thought process is different for a true top 5/top 10 school like Harvard or Stanford.

    Since that’s how CoC asked her question, I’m in the C camp.

    I also agree with HM that it’s a different thought process for a somewhat lower tier school. If there’s a 50% tuition aid offer from USC or Northeastern on the table, we might still pay full fare for Harvard or Stanford, but much less likely for Rice or Tufts.

  214. Finn – it can also be a bit delicate when your kids have friends who want to go to (or hs counselors who push for) private schools that you may not think are worth the $200,000. DD had friends who got into her reach schools (that she was rejected from), but hadn’t gotten into their top choices. DD’s school was a reach for other people she knew, and so on and so on!

    Was it here that I read about parents who told their kids that they would cover the cost for an in-state public education, but if the kids wanted out of state or private, they would have to come up with the difference through loans, grants, merit aid or working? That seemed like a good basic plan to me, one that could be adapted as needed as the kids get closer to college.

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