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Why I’m Not Saving for My Child’s College

Are you ready to be horrified? . . . I don’t necessarily want my kids to go to college.

There, I said it (or wrote it).

It’s not that I don’t hope that my kids make lots of money and live in a mansion with no problems (although, really, desiring that is neither realistic nor healthy), it’s just that I don’t see how I can have any concrete plans at all for each of my little individual people. Quite frankly, at ages 9, 7, 4 and 18 months the truth is that I have no idea what they’re going to do with their lives. While money is important and necessary to live, money in abundance does not bring happiness, and happiness is one of the things I most hope for all of my children to have.

So, I simply have a goal that they will grow up and find something to do that they are passionate about. It could be as a mother, a doctor, a hairdresser, or it could even be as a manager at McDonald’s. All I aspire for them is that they are able to find something they love to do and work hard at being the best they can at their chosen job. 

Why I'm not saving for my child's college

Now, let me tell you five reasons I’m NOT saving for my child’s college education:

  1. College does not equal education. Education is of the utmost importance in our home. In fact, as a homeschooling family, it’s a requirement in our home! My husband, who went to college for 8 long years loves to say that he has learned much more outside of college than in it. And it’s 100% true: he always has his head buried in some sort of history or political science book. Our bookshelves are overflowing with shelf after shelf of books he’s read AFTER he graduated. I, for my part, chose to (try to) learn Latin when our eldest was one year old. I listen to podcasts about literature, science, and whatever else I have time for when my littles give me a few minutes break. My point is that sending kids to college does not make them educated. College should prepare a person for a job or career path they want to go down. It shouldn’t be used to make a well-rounded person, and it cannot create the love of learning that we value so highly.
  2. I don’t want my kids to go to college just so they can say they graduated from college. I say this as the only child in my family to ever go to college, and as a person who always had the goal of going to college for no other reason than the bright, shiny beacon it represented and the great living I believed it would provide. I say this as an English major who went to college with no particular job in mind and in all reality wasted roughly $30,000. You see, going to college just to obtain a degree does nothing more than turn college into an extension of high school. Yes, college graduates make more than non-graduates over their lifetime, but that only applies to people with a chosen career. In college you can take classes in literature, possibly math, foreign language, history, and social sciences, and if you graduate with any kind of a non-specialty degree end up with your high school education done all over again. If my children go to college I want it to be because they have a career in mind and college is NECESSARY for them to fulfill that goal.college graduation
  3. People don’t appreciate what they haven’t worked for. Handing my kids a fully paid education on a silver platter doesn’t feel like a gift; it feels like one more way to give them something that previous generations have had to work hard for (and have been better off because of). When I turned 16 my dad let me use his car so long as I paid for the insurance cost to have me added and the gas I would use. I got my first job at Dairy Queen and proceeded to work almost nonstop until one week before the birth of our first. Having college fully paid would encourage my children to go to college for something they didn’t have to work at all to obtain, and most likely would lead to them going just for the sake of going (see #2 above).  
  4. If my kids go to college I expect them to get scholarships and work through college. I don’t want my kids going to college unless they have a specific goal in mind. Do they want to be a doctor, lawyer, professor, or marketing executive? Then with a career in mind for which college is NECESSARY they can apply for scholarships. Do they want to be a mechanic or hair stylist? They can go to trade school. If they’re truly motivated for a career their grades will reflect that motivation and they will get scholarships wherever they decide to attend. If scholarships don’t cover the full amount of their tuition, then at that time I will gladly help them because I’ve made choices enabling me to do so (see below). Even with my help, however, if they want to go to college they will need to have a job (husband and I both worked 16-20 hours a week in college) so they learn a good work ethic before they are tossed out into the world.  
  5. I believe putting ourselves first will help our kids in the long run. Finally, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in the belief that when you’ve taken care of yourself you are better able to take care of others. (Just like during an airplane emergency!) By getting our financial ducks in a row now for things like life insurance, savings, and retirement, my husband and I will be much better able to help our children if and when they need it down the line.  Money we spend now on trying to prepay for a college education is money far better spent on paying down a mortgage, paying off cars, or socking away for retirement. I firmly believe any money we put into taking care of our family’s real financial security and needs instead of a college savings account is much better spent. With our family home paid off before retirement and a good savings account, my husband and I will able to much better able to help our children, should the need arise, in their adult years.

So no, we don’t save for our kids college, but that doesn’t mean their education and happiness are unimportant to us. Rather, for our family, putting both their and our happiness first means putting all of that hard earned money into places we find most important. 

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5 Responses to Why I’m Not Saving for My Child’s College

  1. sarahjo July 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

    Have you heard of SkillsUSA? An organization promoting the trade skills to younger generations. There’s also world wide competitions and the Skills teams are a much bigger deal in other countries. SkillsUSA WorldTeam is an inspiration as we teach our children that trades are an honorable and worthwhile endeavor in life.

  2. Melissa in Lakewood July 25, 2015 at 10:15 am #

    Kelly, you raise a lot of excellent points here. It’s great when people start thinking outside the box about college! My husband didn’t attend college but learned different trades which led him to open his own profitable security firm which has grown for the last 25 years. I also didn’t get a college degree but instead took accounting and business management classes to help run our company. That being said, we’ve also graduated three homeschoolers who have gone on to college. Their chosen professions required it (CPA, Physicians Assistant, and attorney). We didn’t have a LOT of money to send them to college, but we did save (in addition to retirement, etc.) to at least contribute something. We also took advantage of AP, dual credit, SAT prep and worked hard on scholarship opportunities. I think it’s fine not to say college is a must but from experience, it’s important that they feel supported and have a financial game-plan to go if they do wish to attend. Getting to and through college requires a ton of parental support, not always in the form of a fully-funded education account. You also don’t want your kids saddled with student loans unless it is for a lucrative graduate degree. We have seen the devastating results of that with their peers. I know for certain, if we hadn’t worked together as a family toward this goal, their likelihood of success would be greatly diminished so continue looking for creative ways to support them along the way. Best wishes on your homeschooling journey!

  3. Sara August 11, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    Yes, yes, yes. It’s like you snuck into my brain and read my mind (I even have a 9, 7, 4, and 17 month old, so that was a little creepy 🙂 ) My husband and I feel the exact same way. We are also a military family and if today’s amazing GI Bill is still around in 10 years, we would be fully supportive of them choosing to serve in the military in order to gain skills and pay for college. Love this, thank you for writing it!

  4. Jesse A January 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    1 – no one ever said learning ends the day you graduate from college.
    2 – what a great statement. No one ever suggested they should.
    3 – believe it or not your child actually did work to get into college. And if they get into a great school they get the added benefit of mommy and daddy having a comfortable middle class life and them getting thousands of dollars in debt. Talk about showing appreciation for hardwork!
    4 – you are kidding right?
    5 – Imagine if great Americans like Washington, Lincoln, Brown, Truth, and King always put themselves first. Scary. Very scary.

    When did saving for your child’s future become so un-American?

    • Rebekah January 26, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

      In response to your question about saving for your child’s future my husband and I firmly believe saving for our retirement and old age us better for our child’s future than saving for her college. We have lost my mother in law to a very aggressive cancer and my grandfather after a lengthy alzheimers battle this last year and my other grandpa has fallen and is looking at extensive (ie expensive) therapy and assistance. None of them prepared for this and it is a huge burden on us, their family. My poor grandmother lived in fear that her husband would outlive her money and he would not be as to get the care he needed or she would become entirely dependant on family to take care of her needs. By providing security for my potential needs in the future I will be taking a lot of stress off my family in the future. They say you can ways borrow for college but you can’t borrow for retirement.

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