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Ask Dave

Fight To Remain At This School

Michael has a daughter in college. He's trying to figure out a way not to co-sign a student loan for her. She's going to be $8,000 short next year. Dave doesn't think his daughter can afford this school.

QUESTION: Michael in Virginia says his oldest daughter is in her first year in college. He’s trying to figure out a way not to co-sign a student loan for her. The money she saved for college is gone, and she’s applying for scholarships, but she’s going to be $8,000 short next year. Dave doesn’t think his daughter can afford this school.

ANSWER: Apparently, she can’t afford it. What’s wrong with a state school? I’ll bet she’d like a brand new Mercedes too. She can’t afford it.

There are two choices. If she’s going to stay in that school, we’ve got to get more scholarships coming in or she’s going to have to get a fabulous job between now and September. That’s going to be like 60-hour weeks this summer to come up with $8,000 to make it through next year. I’m not putting this kid in student loan debt because of her college choice. The last time I checked, the University of Virginia was a pretty good school. And it’s $11,000 a year instead of $30,000.

I don’t want her to have to change, but part of our job as parents is to teach children to select things that they can afford in their lives—not just what they want. You don’t get to make your decisions on feelings unless you want to be broke your whole life. As much as we as dads want our daughters to never have a bump in the road, they’re going to have bumps in the road. I can’t tell you that Patrick Henry is $14,000 or $15,000 a year better than the University of Virginia with a straight face, can you?

Poli-sci is at every college. You can get a political science degree at just about any college in America. Obviously, to get that from Patrick Henry, I suspect that might be rather rich. I think that might be kind of cool because Patrick Henry and political science in the same sentence makes your hair curl. That’s wonderful. I suspect it’s a wonderful field of study there. What I would do if I were her, if she wants to fight to stay there, that’s good. I like that. But I want her to find the money. She needs to be wearing every professor out, wearing every counselor out, finding about every scholarship that’s available out there, what all she can do. Have they got a work-study program there where they furnish her tuition while she works for some prof grading papers or whatever? How can we fight to stay there?

This American tradition of the last generation that by default we assume if we’re a student we have to have a student loan debt—I’m against that concept completely. It has not proven to do well for everybody. I can understand why she’d want to be there, and I’m with her to fight to stay there. I would help her in any way I could. If you can come up with some cash yourself to pay part of it, that’s okay. She works her tail off and finds some cash herself. She finds scholarships. She gets discounts. She works with them. Maybe they really want her around there. Maybe she’s got some grades that are attractive to them.

Here’s the thing on an expensive private school like that. Nobody pays that sticker price. Almost nobody pays sticker price at Harvard to go to Harvard. They go on discounts of some kind based on whatever scholarship, whatever grant, whatever thing. Get in there and figure out how to beat sticker price down. Those are the kinds of things I would tell you to do. But at the end of the day, if we can’t do all of that, I’m transferring because you can get a poli-sci degree and go into politics from a lot of schools that are less expensive and that are excellent education.