Monday, June 18, 2012

Moolah Monday - College Education

One of the biggest concerns people have about family size is the financial aspects.  It seems as if the two biggest concerns (for individuals with health insurance) is childcare and college tuition.  This is true whether the child in question is biologically related, adopted, or has some other connection to the family but it seems even more pressing an issue for people who are considering making the conscious choice of adding an additional member to their family through adoption.  The good news is that there are resources available (like adoption subsidy) to cover some expenses that could be applied to things like childcare to help ease the burden.  There are programs for children who are adopted from foster care to help cover college tuition as well, but before I get into that I have a few things to say about parental responsibility for college:

My parents paid for all but $5K of my undergraduate education at a private university.  I worked full-time and paid for many of my own expenses including books, transportation, insurance (auto & health), etc., but they paid for my housing either through my first year at the dorms or my other two years living at home.  Yes, that's only 3 years.  I finished in 3 years which saved about 20K.  I got married about 6 months after I graduated, which meant the rest of my schooling was on mie - I've paid about 60K for all of my graduate school, not including what has been reimbursed by my employer.  All-in-all, the cost of my education primarily in the 2000's has been about $120K, again, not including living expenses.

That's a lot of money.

I do not believe it is the parent's responsibility to provide college for the child.  I certainly don't believe that it is their obligation to provide Ivy League tuition and living for children.  College is neither a right nor an obligation in my mind.  You have to work to get in, you have to work to pay for it, and you have to work to get out - preferably in that order.  I was blessed that for the first 2 1/2 years my parents were able to send a monthly check to the school so that I didn't have to worry about the tuition check.  I chose to live at home (the second two years) so that I didn't have to pay the cost of an apartment near school because I didn't believe it was my parent's responsibility to pay for other housing.  I worked full-time because I didn't believe it was my parent's responsibility to pay for all the "extras" I wanted - regardless of whether or not they could afford it.

Something happened in my last semester of school, at which point I had stopped working full-time, which required mie to fork over my own school dough and I ended up taking a small student loan to cover the cost last minute.  I didn't sit back and whine about not being able to go to school or having a debt to pay.  I did worry about how I was going to come up with 5K in the middle of a semester, without notice, given a set of circumstances that made the FAFSA really complicated, and how as a result I would or would not be able to graduate on-time relative to what I had worked so hard to do.

All that said I was grateful for the support I received from my parents and as a parent I want to do whatever is possible to help my children go to college.  I do hope that they all have the opportunity to go to college and maybe even grad school if they so choose and I will do everything I can to support them in that endeavor, including financially supporting them if I possibly can.  That being said I do not believe the inability to pay for college tuition makes adoption an irresponsible decision.  I do not believe family size should be dictated by the number of children you can put through college (financially).  I think it should be something you think about but only as a consideration point so you are aware of how adoption will impact your family including other children in the home rather than a as a disqualification factor.

I hope we will find a way to save and pay for Logan's college tuition so that he doesn't have to worry about it.  Even if we can't, we'll encourage him to proceed through school with whatever help we can provide at the time knowing there's a lesson in persevering and, by the way, working through college won't kill you (I'm living proof).  That being said I don't know how many children we'd be able to save up for.  We discussed it with Summer, that it would be a stretch but we could like afford 2 college tuitions especially considering they are 3 years apart educationally, but how many more children we could afford realistically is definitely in question.

When we began pursuing foster care adoption we knew of a program here in Texas whereas any child deemed to have special needs (older than 6, minority over 2, sibling group, or true medical special need) would qualify to have in-state tuition covered as long as the program was in place at the time the adoption was finalized.  We knew this program could go away at some point but that it was in place at the current time (and, right now still is).  "Unfortunately", Summer was a 2 year old caucasian child with no medical special needs.  When her brother was placed for adoption elsewhere she was no longer member of a sibling group and therefore, in our eyes, did not qualify for the college tuition program as an adopted "special needs" child. Of course we proceeded with the adoption but knew our ability to support both children through college, or more children as they came, could be limited in the future, but that fact did not make us bad parents.  (Amen?)

At a foster parent's meeting last week we were surprised to learn of a different program federal government that provides college tuition waivers for children who were ever in foster care.  Our program in Texas requires that the student be in DFPS custody on or after:

  • The day preceding the student's 18th birthday;
  • The day of the student's 14th birthday, if the student was also eligible for adoption on or after that day;
  • The day the student graduated from high school or received the equivalent of a high school diploma;
  • The day the student was adopted if that date is on or after September 1, 2009
  • The day permanent managing conservatorship of the student was grant to an individual other than the student's parent, if that date is on or after September 1, 2009 or
  • If the student enrolls in a dual credit course or other course which a high-school student may earn joint high school and college credit, and is in conservatorship on the day of enrollment
The only requirement for eligible individuals is that they enroll before their 25th birthday.  (see the full program here).  I've highlighted the way Summer qualifies above.  I'm told the tuition waiver is available for all in-state tuition including some vocational schools and even extends to graduate and professional degree programs.  In other words, Summer could go through college to get her Ph.D. like her mommy, and have tuition covered.  Of course, not all of our children will go to college, many of us are just hoping to get them through high school, but having the financial aspect covered can go along way to encouraging our kids to succeed through higher education.  If we can say "You can do it!" all along and help them by removing the financial barrier then we have a better chance of motivating them to do all the other work that a college education requires.

I'm told the program is funded by a federal program, but I have yet to find that information.  It appears as if there are federal funds tied to foster care that are being directed to tuition waivers as mandated by state legislatures.  In plain language - check with your state for availability.

I didn't worry about college for Summer too much to this point and it certainly wouldn't have made us avoid adoption altogether, but it is wonderful to know that she does qualify for tuition waivers through the state as long as funds are still available at the time.  

1 comment:

amy said...

This is such an inspiring story. I just hope many people would come to think about the welfare of other people who do not have much. If I have the chance, I would surely share my blessings. I just ask God's grace to enable my heart to help others. I hope many wealthy people do. Because the truth is that College Education is really expensive.