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Dear Lissa,

Thank you for establishing a wonderful website. I foundit a few months back, and have always enjoyed visiting it.

My question is in regards to my 16 year-old daughter. She is, and has always been a fabulous student; she plans on graduating high school a year early (next May), as a 16 year old, and she has pretty much decided that she is leaving to a university that is about a 7-hour drive away, and at least 4 times as expensive as the local university. The local university is in the same system as the one she plans to leave to, and is only about a 15 minute drive away. My husband and I are both public school educators, do have some college funds set aside for her, but we both feel, and believe that the most logical choice, is, for her to begin here (at a savings of about $20,000 for that first year alone). We have tried reasoning with her, that we can pay for her tuition here without touching her savings until she heads out her sophomore year, but she has told us that she has made up her mind, that she is leaving, and she is not even going to submit an application to the local university. My husband and I are caught between keeping a diplomatic approach with her and just enforcing our decision as parents. Any advice? Our other concern is that her boyfriend graduated from high school this year, and he has already headed to that city to attend a university there.

Thanks a million!



 Since your daughter is not yet 18, you have a lot of say in this matter even without considering the finances.  Is she mature enough to enter this world of college life and all that entails?  Do you trust her to live on her own and make good decisions?  If the answer is no, then you need to use your trump card and make her stay home for a year, even if she is not going to school.  She could take that year off and work, save up money to pay for some of her expenses on her own.

Your daughter needs to understand the economics involved, and take some responsibility.  This generation tends to feel “entitled” and they don’t think about the consequences of their actions and what they cost.  Lay it out to her in black and white, dollars and “sense!”  You have a budget.  This is how much you can afford.  Anything over and above those expenses SHE is responsible for.  If that means she has to get a scholarship, or a student loan, or financial aid, or a job, that is HER choice.  But YOU can’t be forced to pay for a school you can’t afford.

 Outline her options – so that she can see what it costs, for books, housing, tuition, car expenses, food, everything.  Write down a few different scenarios, including ALL of the costs:

1. Four years at the local public university

2. One year at the local university and three years at the private university 

3. Two years at the public university and two years at the private university

4. Four years at the private university


Include in the scenarios if she were to live at home, or live on campus.  If there is a difference of $20,000, or whatever it is per year, and your budget, ask her to come up with a plan for how she is going to get that money. Maybe she has some ideas that would work out so that you’re happy for her to go.

I wouldn’t even bring up the boyfriend issue, keep this about logic and stay rational.  Don’t let emotions get involved.  Although this is about where she wants to go to school, you have some say because you ultimately sign the papers!  Let her sit with these scenarios and work out a plan.  You are being very generous, and she needs to see that, and appreciate that. You promised her a good education, and you are delivering on that promise.  You didn’t promise her a stay at the country club of her choice!

Understanding the financial situation is a part of growing up.  If your daughter was paying for this all on her own, and knew it from the beginning, would she even be considering the other school?  Don’t let this girl railroad you into making a decision that you feel is not the best for your daughter.  You are the parent, and she has to abide by what you say.