Katie Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy and is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. She works from her home office on the east coast of Florida. Most often she writes about life in a combined family of five children and what it's like being a full time work-from-home parent. Feel free to pitch guest post ideas or just drop her a line at katie@mumblingmommy.com.

Check out all of the posts in the Mommy Money series.

The cost of college has been all over the news lately. Perhaps it has to do with it being election season…but maybe not. I really don’t think anyone can deny the skyrocketing costs of higher education.

He’s only four — but saving for college is on my mind

My husband and I both have bachelor’s degrees. I went to a community college, spent one year at a private college, and then finished up at a state university — all over the course of about five and a half years.

My husband attended a private college for the entire six and a half years it took him to get his undergrad degree. My parents had a 529 plan for me that they paid for starting when I was just a baby. They paid cash out of pocket to cover what the plan would not for my year at the private school.

My last semester of state school was no longer covered by the 529, so they generously paid cash for that as well. I graduated from college with 0 student loan debt.

My husband’s parents did not have college savings for him.They chose to let him finance his education through scholarships, grants, and loans. He escaped the first few years of school with very minimal loan debt,using mostly grant and scholarship money. But when he changed his degree several times and suffered the loss of his dad, his momentum slowed and his grades dropped. This caused him to lose scholarship money and have to take on more student loans.

He graduated with about $70,000 in student loan debt. About 1/3 is in subsidized Stafford loans. The rest is in unsubsidized Staffords and private loans. We pay about $450 per month in loan payments.

So the question is, which side is right? Those who think parents should finance the cost of a child’s higher ed, or those who think the child should be responsible? There’s no clear cut answer. In an ideal world, I think parents should save for a child’s college. I also think parents should push their children towards the least expensive opportunities, i.e. community college or in-state public schools. Perhaps if the child insists on a more expensive option, they should find a way to pay the difference between what mom and dad have saved, and the actual cost of tuition. This could be accomplished through scholarships, or holding a job while in school.

However, my plan does not account for kids who want to go a more specialized route. I live in Florida, and I can think of so many specialized colleges nearby. We have Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Ringling College of Art and Design, and Art Institute — just to name a few. Should parents be expected to finance these as well? Ringling can run upwards of $200,000 for just tuition. Again, I’m not sure.

I only have one four-year-old child so far (and a baby due to make her debut in January). My husband and I, at ages 26 and (almost) 30, have yet to start a college savings for our son. While we make a decent income for a three-person family, it’s not enough to put a large sum aside each month (especially considering those$450/month loan payments on my husband’s education).

To start a 529 plan at my son’s age would be prohibitively expensive. All we can hope at this point is that we start making much more money in the relatively near future, and are able to save.  As for bigger families, such as blogger Katie’s, this situation is that much more complicated. She has this decision to make, times four kids!

So what do you think parents? Have you started saving? Have you and your spouse discussed what your approach will be when the time comes? What are your own student loan/debt situations?

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Category: Family Finances

Tags: college