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High cost and admission requirements of colleges

Original post made by Worried mom on Apr 30, 2010

I want to hear from middle class parents of average students about how they prepare for dealing with ever rising costs and admission requirements of colleges these days.
Local private universities such as Santa Clara University cost $60K a year and require $3.52 GPA and 1800 SAT.
Most UCs are looking for 4.0 PA students and cost $30K a year.
My husband and I are both engineers, so consider ourselves middle class. How can we fund our 2 kids' education?
Just 4 year college costs for both kids at today's average cost of $60K/year will add up to roughly $500K.
We do not have that much money and I do not want my kids to get knee deep in debt by the time they finish college.
I feel that middle class kids are at a huge disadvantage - they will not qualify for scholarships and financial aide and will be burdened with debt.
Another concern is ever rising admission requirements. If your kid is just average B student, not an athlete, not a legacy student, UC schools will not accept him or her.
Average student from middle class family is in the worst position - no chance for UC, no chance for financial aid....
As for community colleges - I was told that it's better to be placed sooner into an academic environment, where chances of being surrounded by people who can inspire and bring up the best in you are higher than in community colleges, where competition is quite brutal too to get accepted into the UC system and average students get "stuck".

Comments (75)

Posted by Esswaess, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2010 at 11:30 am

Expert advice:Dont get average grades

Posted by Cal State, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

The state colleges (San Jose State, San Francisco State) are still a bargain.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I attended Paly in the 80s when academics were not as rigorous. I remember the days where acceptance into UCs were based upon on a sliding scale, depending on GPAs/SATs. Higher GPA/lower SAT required, etc. Wasn't difficult to be accepted.

I too, am concerned about academics for my children here. But I do not want them attending state colleges, as I attended SJSU and was not happy with the student body. I felt that the students were not of the aptitude and upbringing of the Paly students and felt out of place. I wish I had chosen a UC instead, but SJSU offered my rare major.

This doesn't help your financial situation, but out of state schools will often accept lower GPAs.

Posted by Cal State, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

What does "not of the upbringing of the Paly students" mean?

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm

You might take a look at the western exchange:
Web Link

California students can get reduced rates at a number of western universities, many of which look forward to out of state applicants. For example it is less expensive for a CA student to go to U of Montana than it is to go to one of the UC schools.

Posted by Lena, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I actually agree with Paly Alum about State Colleges and the type of student body there.
I often recruit from San Jose State University for my company, and while the students are mostly all very hard working and good kids, they are of different background, upbringing and walks of life, many are children of first generation immigrant parents and did not get the cultural exposure many Palo Alto kids were fortunate to get. Few traveled extensively abroad, few went to opera or symphony, few had Stanford professor parents, few had a chance to sit next to a Stanford professor at family dinner and talk about politics, so all these experiences shape the personalities of many PA students, who indeed will feel out of place amoung SJSU students.

Posted by PA resident, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Have you looked at Canada? Overall cost of education in Canada, even considering international tuition, can be much less than in US.

Posted by Mina, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Most important advice I got from my financial planner - do not tap into your retirement to pay for college education of your kids.
Better let them borrow than deplete your retirement. My friend who had $250K in student loans and struggled to find a job ended up declaring bancruptcy and 7 years later her credit history cleared and she has no debts.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:19 pm

"What does "not of the upbringing of the Paly students" mean?"

Intelligence and additional income. My parents weren't wealthy (they worked for the government. Perhaps they didn't make intelligent choices either for chosing to work for the government) but they were both intelligent people and earned degrees from U.C. Berkeley and my dad was highly accomplished in his career. While I never traveled abroad nor did any of the activities of the wealthier, we did have additional income for some nice things and fun.

Lena's statements above sound elitist to me (and I have never attended a symphony). There are plenty of Palo Alto students who do not fit into her description, yet they, like me, might feel out of place at a Cal state school. When I attended in the 80s, there were no immigrants. The students were not of the high intelligence caliber of most Palo Alto students nor did they have any spare income. Many students at SJSU didn't even have any money to go to a rock concert or sports event or to go buy a burger. And let's face it, our "regular" students in Palo Alto are more intelligent than typical American students, and those who live here can afford to go to a movie and dinner every now and then.

Posted by UC graduate's mom, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Worried Mom:

My child graduated from UC in 2009, after attending Palo Alto High School (class of 2005). We could not pay for college outright, and we did not have grandparents who could pay for the grand-kids (many college kids we know in Palo Alto actually have their college degree paid for by their grand-parents, not their parents).

We did not want our child saddled with a huge debt that would burden him greatly for a long time. So, we took parent loans to supplement what we had saved up. We paid 25% of the UC tab outright from savings, and 75% with parent loans. These loans (through the university) had reasonable rates and will be repaid in 6-10 years. It's hard for us but would be even harder for our child. And we did not touch our retirement savings.

As to admissions, they get tougher every year, but I would not dispair. I am sure your child will find a good fit.

Posted by Worried Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thank you all who replied. We do not have savings to pay even for 25% tab for private college costs for both of our kids. We have a house in Palo Alto which we bought 4 years ago and we spend a very significant portion of our income on mortgage and property tax.
We save 10% of our earnings for retirement, we absolutely do not have room for college savings in our budget. How do families who jointly make around $250K a year before taxes manage to afford living in Palo Alto and save enough for 2 kids college education. I can't get the math.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

There are more scholarships out there - they vary by university, but you may be surprised.
I do not like the slams at San Jose State - some of their programs have been or are significant.

Posted by aspadeaspade, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

"And let's face it, our "regular" students in Palo Alto are more intelligent than typical American students"

Nonsense. They are no more intelligent than students in NYC, Denver or EPA. Though the rate of Aspergers is probably higher here.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:38 pm

San Jose State (part of the CU system) has an average SAT of about 1500, their tuition is about 5K a year and 50% of the students had a GPA of 3.0 or lower. And there is more financial aide out there than you think.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Only 250,000 students in the entire country pay more than $50,000 per year for undergraduate school.

Also, the number of high-school graduates is dropping significantly over the next 10 years.

Worried mom has been drinking the Kool-Aid of the overwrought media who all think their kids should go to the Ivy League.

The correct strategy is to start saving money for your kid's education and let it grow while they are in school. Also let your kids know that they will be expected to contribute as well to their education.

Posted by wow, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Worried mom

Inherent in your question is a sense of entitlement that befuddles me. Does living in Palo Alto or making $250,000 collectively a year or owning your own home entitle your or anyone else's kids to go to college?

There are more people out there who would LOVE to have what you've described in terms of material wealth (owning home) or annual income ($250k per year) who make do and come out just fine. How? Their kids do the best they can, they apply for scholarships, they take out loans, they do work-study, they go to night school. They do what it takes with the hand that's been dealt to them.

Where does it say because you live in Palo Alto that you are entitled to send your kids to private schools? Have them go to community college for a few years to save money. Have them live at home for those two years. Have them work while they are going to school.

But above all, why don't YOU stop stressing about it and stop passing that stress onto your kids who are are only in middle school?

Why don't you set the bar now that you expect them to DO their best, not BE the best. That it's ok if they don't go to a private school, and that because they live in Palo Alto they can still be perfectly happy attending community college if they can't get into a private school or afford to go there.

Just out of curiousity. What do you think all those folks do who can't afford to buy a house in Palo Alto as you did and who don't have anywhere near the annual household income that you are fortunate to have.

Not all things are equal in life so do the best you can to teach your kids that. Instead of bemoaning their potential inability to attend a $50-$60k per year private college, why not teach them how fortunate they and you are to be where they and you are here today. Have them (and you) volunteer at a homeless shelter or a food bank for a day. Find out what real problems are.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Within the UC system, Riverside and Merced should be easier to qualify for, and, less expensive also.

I second the comment about the Western Exchange. California is expensive -- as a student, why not go where it is cheaper and you are wanted?

The CSU schools, especially the less urban ones, are also a bargain.

Posted by sara, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:20 pm

If you are interested in becoming a Registered Nurse and your goalis to work at Stanford Hospital ,think again about obtaining a Associates Degree from a Junior College. Only Stanford Hospital seems to think a Bachalors degree is some how better. An AS degree hirable BUT is going to require a additional certification that will require double the continuing education credits to maintain that certification. Shoulder to shoulder a new grad is a new grad as a floor nurse no matter what kind of degree you have. This is not a common practice for the profession . That being said , the once affordable junior college route for this honorable profession is being hinder for this area by a university that does not offer a nursing degree. And why do we have a nursing shortage????

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2010 at 7:14 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Seriously consider the military. Various programs are available that run up to full financial support in return for commitments to serve 5 years or so. 5 years as an officer may be better than 10 years paying down loans.

Posted by Mary M, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

To Mina -
As for not tapping into your retirement for your kids' college education - that advice may be just fine. However, I absolutely do NOT think it is OK to rack up $250K in school debt, then declare bankruptcy and "7 years later" have your credit report cleared and no debt. Not OK. You know who pays for that $250K? You do. I do. Taxpayers do. When you go to college and take on some or all of the debt yourself, you are making an contract to pay that money back - no matter how long it takes.

Regarding the SJSU bashing - please don't. The CSU's are good schools, and financially are a great deal. I also went to Paly and graduated in 1980; went to SJSU. The people there, professors, and the education were excellent. Had the CSU's not been affordable then I would have had no option to even go to college. And yes, I had student loans and paid them off bit by bit years after I graduated. The people I know who have graduated from SJSU are some of the most NORMAL, kind, smart and reasonable people I've ever met. I have no idea what people are talking about regarding the people at SJSU "not being up to PA standards"- whatever that is. My 77 year old Dad was born and raised in PA, and never finished high school at Paly (the Korean War). He was a technical type who spent his career at Stanford and Cal Poly running their engineering labs. We did not have Stanford professors at the table talking politics. Quite the contrary. So, don't drink the Ivy League kool aid, people.

Both my children have graduated from Paly and are attending SJSU. They will both get excellent educations, make great connections with people in the community, and will pay for part of their college expenses themselves. They work. Yes, they are extremely fortunate to live here as was I, but there is a middle ground. Have your kids take some responsibility for paying for school - it is THEIR deal. We help all we can, but we don't make anywhere NEAR $250K year. (Cut it in half, and you're close.) I am proud of my normal, average, kind, responsible kids. They don't need to attend a $50k per year college to succeed. No one does.

Posted by To Lena, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

"I often recruit from San Jose State University for my company, and while the students are mostly all very hard working and good kids, they are of different background, upbringing and walks of life, many are children of first generation immigrant parents and did not get the cultural exposure many Palo Alto kids were fortunate to get."

Wow, that says it all right there. Sure makes me proud to live in Palo Alto... NOT!
Very hard working and good kids, but don't fit into your little box of acceptable people you want to work with and associate with. Sounds a little racist to me, kinda like those nice, hard working people that cut your lawn and do your yard, hard workers but I sure wouldn't want to actually talk to them.

Hey Palo Alto, try looking outside the box once in awhile, you might meet some very interesting, smart, rational, kind people that might have even come from a junior college, or heaven forbid, NO COLLEGE EDUCATION AT ALL. Oh dear!

From Mr. NO college degree, highest most valuable employee at my job, own a home in Palo Alto, happily married for 26 years and raised two wonderful children.

Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Brian Guth-Pasta is a registered user.

It isn't racist to say that people who can afford to give their children more cultural experiences (theatre, traveling, art, sports, music) have more cultural exposure.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2010 at 2:32 pm

No College Degree,

Lena is stating her experience - she says nothing of the thinking she is superior to these students. Many of these Town Forum posters have chips on their shoulders and think Palo Altans are elitists. I say, look into the mirror at yourselves - do you like yourself? Because people who bash others have low self-esteems. While there are some elitist snobs in Palo Alto, most Palo Altans are very nice an helpful, much friendlier than I have found in other parts of this country.

To Mary M.,

All colleges have their good teachers and professors, even community colleges. College reputations are what people think about.

Forcing your children to pay for "their" college only builds resentment and does not build character. You should want to help your children advance, not make their lives more difficult. Re "normal, average kids". Many Palo Altans have bigger aspirations for their children. Each generation should be more successful than the past, not stifle their children's future. Why do you think the rich get richer?

Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Brian Guth-Pasta is a registered user.

The government really should just forgive all student debt and pay for everyone's college. They would end up making money from doing this through collecting the tax difference between a high school educated person and a person with a college degree. Would also make us smarter as a nation and raise our GDP and keep us on top of the educated world.

Posted by res, a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I think what the original poster is bringing up is how much things have changed in one generation. It is amazing how difficult it is to get into the UC's and how expensive they have become. Some good suggestions for alternatives, but I do shake my head and wonder how this got to be. How'd this happen?

Posted by Mary M, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm

To Paly Alum -
I said nothing about FORCING my children to pay for their college. I have raised 2 independent, thoughtful young adults who want to help pay for their college. One of my kids applied for and received many scholarships along the way. As for building character, who's got more character, the kid who has everything paid for or the kid who works for things along the way? My kids have built great character for themselves. There is no resentment; your comment seems to have taken a huge leap from what I was trying to say.

As for the comment about all colleges having good teachers - of course they do. I attended community college for 2 years, and there were excellent teachers there too. My point wasn't about the caliber of college instruction; rather that the tendency for parents in this town to "encourage" their kids (make sure you play a sport, make sure you volunteer, make sure you get all A's) to do everything just to get into an Ivy or other college with a high reputation is stressful for kids. Talk about resentment! Kids here are generally over scheduled, pushed way too hard academically and stressed out. Do you not read the news? Life is much more than just where you went to college; it's about following your passion. Do something you love, be kind to each other, help your neighbors.

I am in no way stifling my kids or making it harder for them. They appreciate everything they have/do because they work for it. Yes, each generation is doing better than the one before it, but I guess I'm just not as concerned with making money as some others. Money is not what makes people happy. It does not make you a better person. It's fine if that's your passion (to make money), but we're in deep trouble if that's what the majority of college-bound kids are thinking.

It is very hard to write in this type of forum and not have your comments misconstrued since there is no face-to-face; humor is missed and statements are misunderstood. My whole point in even responding to this post in the first place was to let other parents out there know that there is a middle ground. You can encourage your kids without totally over-scheduling their life. This is perhaps the worst year for college admissions EVER. I'm just trying to point out that it's OK to go to a CSU or a community college. Or even something other than college. It is not the only way.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Public university systems may not have the paid PR mouths to promote themselves sufficiently like their private peers. THAT's what I get out of this discussion. Some standing of educational institutions may come from nonsense like the $$$ and promotion put into the football team. Schools like Stanford and USC pour millions into nonsense like that.
I did a Master's at SJSU and commuted over, like many students have done, but now they have a large, lovely dorm that has made SJSU more of a destination rather than commute school. I found the library to be filled at all hours.
Likewise, institutions may vary in terms of accomplishments, rankings, etc. depending on the era. Leadership and programs fluctuate everywhere.
At one point San Jose State was #1 in the nation for Advertising.
San Jose State is not downmarket. I remember walking into the Engineering building and seeing a glass case in the wall containing a huge number of textbooks authored by San Jose State professors. These texts are used at colleges and universities all around the U.S.

Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Mary M.,

So we do agree on some things. I agree that students are being overscheduled and pushed too hard. I still want to see my children with spirit in their eyes rather than the "doing school" appearance. In fact, Paly is going to no longer allow the denotation of "100 hours of community service" on transcripts soon. This will lessen the stress for students so that it is not simply another box to check to "look good to the colleges."

As for building character, my chidren are very appreciative and have not had to "work for everything" nor do they even have chores. Meanwhile, I had chores and jobs yet I am unappreciative of my parents due to their lack of nurturing. Hypothetically, your idea is appealing, but in real life, unnecessary if the parenting is continually nurturing and superb in other aspects. "They appreciate everything they have/do because they work for it" you state. No, I think they appreciate everything they have because they have parents who respect and appreciate them.

Money does not bring happiness, but it's a lot easier to be happy with more money.

However, it is important for them to find their passion. I have had enough lousy jobs that I learned that long ago. So my job is to give my children the most exposure to different things so they can find their passions since they can't necessarily find it on their own. My husband told me earlier that he had to read a stack of papers five inches tall so he could prepare for a presentation. My response was "at least you love your job."

My original posting was not that CSUs are not acceptable, it was stating that in general, the students I met at at SJSU were unlike the Paly students I associated with which were those who attended UCs or private schools. College would have been more enjoyable if I were around people with my common upbringing.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Mary, M,
I hope your children do not learn from you that "College would have been more enjoyable if I were around people with my common upbringing". At my husband's and my children Ivy league schools (really Ivy league , not Stanford which is an excellent and high ranked school but not Ivy league), the people who are successful are the ones who understand and feel comfortably friendly with people they didn't have a "common upbringing with". The same for the work place.
If that's the "character" you want to leave your children with, that's fine but then do not complain when their acceptance to places they covet is unrequited. Or maybe you were speaking about country clubs, not education. That's not this forum.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Sorry, my previous comment is directed to Palo Alum , not Mary M.

Posted by narnia, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Sorry, my previous comment is directed to Palo Alum , not Mary M.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Sorry Brian, but I don't want to have my taxes pay for a 4 year socializing program. I am beginning to believe that free public education above the 6th grade is a waste of money and effort. After that, if you can't sell the value of your higher education to some friendly lender, then you have already learned a valuable lesson. In my family, education was usually paid for with military service.

Posted by Vet, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm

To my surprise I found out that my kids will got to UC or State schools for free given I am a disabled military veteran. This really is helping me get both through college, so please let any vets know.

Posted by Mary M, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Narnia. I didn't think that comment was for me. :0)

Paly Alum, you are right. We do respect and appreciate our children very much, and I think they would tell you we have nurtured them well. Thanks for the discussion. Suffice it to say I would rather see the whole college application process calm down. There is value to every single person, whether they choose college or not and whether that choice is a state school, UC, private or Ivy.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2010 at 8:53 am

My kids went to state schools and although they received a top notch education the budget cuts have decimated the system and will only get worse. It takes several months to get an appointment with a counselor to determine what courses are needed - many counselors were laid off. Ancillary staff is also gone so phone calls and emails to the department are unanswered. If I had it to do over again my kids would go to private schools. Graduation is pretty much guaranteed in four years and there is a lot less hassle and aggravation. Now class sections are being eliminated and students wait for classes they need to graduate.

Posted by amused, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 2, 2010 at 10:20 am

I was amused with the post by namia, who felt compelled to inform us of "… my husband's and my children [sic] Ivy league schools (really Ivy league, not Stanford which is an excellent and high [sic] ranked school but not Ivy league)," while sarcastically accusing another poster of elitism in a notably ungrammatical non sequitur: "If that's the 'character' you want to leave your children with, that's fine but then do not complain when their acceptance to places they covet is unrequited."

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

Oh, so the high schools are getting rid of the ridiculous and arbitrary pseudo-requirement of "100 hours community service?" That's great news. It put silly pressure on those occupied with meaningful activities of their own choice. To my knowledge, the "community servie" was generally phony stuff arranged by parents. I would like such extra-curriculars to be arranged by the student, not the parent. Then there would be some credibility. Hopefully the elite universities are catching on to this resume building done by parents. Some people were quite competitive (for the sake of being competitive) of earning those hours and outdoing the other guy.

Posted by Lena, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2010 at 11:31 am

Some people read "elitism" in my post. I want to clarify a few things. In my original post I said I often recruit at SJSU for my company. The company I work for, which is one of the largest high tech employees in Silicon Valley, recruits many times more grads from SJSU than from all UCs combined, and we don't target Stanford and Ivy League at all for undergrads. SJSU students are being hired by big consulting and accounting firms and almost every large Silicon Valley high tech. We are very successful at hiring at SJSU because the students are very hard working and not as "spoiled" or have overblown expectations as Stanford students, for example.
Stating the fact that SJSU students have less broad cultural exposure is not racist. It is a fact that the average SJSU student comes from a different financial and social background than average Palo Alto (or Los Altos or Atherton) kid, I know that from many years of recruiting at SJSU. I did not say that this is good or bad, I only stated that the background is different. Neither did I imply that average Palo Alto kid is more intelligent than average SJSU student, intelligence has hardly anything to do with cultural exposure. Some people jump to conclusions and pull racist card way too quickly.

Posted by Also worried, a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 2, 2010 at 11:43 am

I disagree that "Worried mom has been drinking the Kool-Aid of the overwrought media who all think their kids should go to the Ivy League" Forget Ivy League! Look at national averages for cost of education. Santa Clara University is not an Ivy League school but it requires GPA of $3.8 and costs $63K a year. Decent Liberal Arts Colleges in Oregon, Ohio and Washington State are only marginally less expensive and very selective too. If parents make more that $60K a year (and there is no adjustment for living in high cost Bay Area) and your child doesn't get scholarship for being an great student or athlete, then you are screwed. The undergrad student can get a loan in his/her name only for $2K/year, the rest needs to be funded by parent loans at high interest rate. We live in a country that considers itself the most developed country in the world but can not offer affordable healthcare and education for all. Canada, Germany, France and other countries do, but not the US.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2010 at 11:59 am

Full-time freshman enrollment: 1,085
From CollegeBoard

Santa Clara University is about 55 per year (a lot) but here are the financial aide stats:

Full time freshman 1026
Number who applied for need-based aid: 714
Number who were judged to have need: 506
Number who were offered aid: 489
Number who had full need met: 206
Average percent of need met: 74%
Average financial aid package: $26,456
Average need-based loan: $3,289
Average need-based scholarship or grant award: $22,031
Average non-need based aid: $10,373
Average indebtedness at graduation: $23,909

Posted by Paly Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Having a son who's currently a senior with a 3.2, I've become fairly knowledgeble about college admissions this year. I would suggest the following:
1) Look into WUE, as some other posters have suggested, but be
careful to find out about the requirements of the universities
your children are interested in. They vary a lot. At certain
universities, like Western Washington or Colorado State, it's
more difficult to get admitted through WUE than it is at others
like University of Northern Col. or U. of Southern Oregon.

2) Check into Canadian universities, as previously suggested. Some
are large and more competitive, like U.B.C., but others are a
little smaller and a little easier to get into (U. Vic and Simon
Fraser, for example). They're all inexpensive, by California

3) Look into universities in the Cal. State system. Cal Poly is
not easy to get into, but very affordable. There are others
that are not commuter schools if your children want the feeling
of living in a university community.

4) Consider the U.C.s that are less competitive. Students with
below a 3.5 often scoff at the idea of attending U.C. Merced,
but, from what I've heard, the classes are smaller there and
the quality of education is excellent. And with a 3.5, they
will have little chance of getting into UCLA, Davis or UCB.

5) Consider a community college with a good reputation. Some of
them even have dorms, and there are others close to universities
like Santa Barbara Community College, which make it easy for
students to participate in college life, then transfer.

6) Help your child look for summer work (sales, lifeguarding, etc.,
with the purpose of putting away $1500-2000 each year. This
will give him/her more buy-in and some idea of the overall cost.

7) Start saving. With your income you should be able to put some-
thing aside each month. Think about an expenditure that you
could do without or cut down on (eating out less often, for
example, or taking fewer trips if you travel often).

One book I highly recommend to all who are beginning this
process is The College Solution (O'Shaughnessy).

Good luck!

Posted by Learned the Hard Way, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Our family income is a lot less than yours, and we didn't qualify for any financial aid. According to FAFSA, we should be able to pay the U.C. tuition and room/board without a problem. Don't make the same mistake that we made, thinking that somehow cost of living would be taken into account. It isn't. I recommend that you talk with your kids now about attending community college first and discuss the need to save money to pay for the junior and senior years. If they are assuming that the money is there, they might be angry realizing as seniors that they are in a different situation from some of their peers, who have trustfunds, college savings accounts or grandparents who are able to foot the bill.

Posted by HPA, a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Great post by Paly Mom of Midtown. Thank you for not being negative. Thank you for writing something helpful and easy to read. There may not be as many options as we would all like, but it does make a great deal of sense to know what does exist.

Posted by Vicki O'Day, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

I'm an independent college counselor who specializes in college affordability. Lots of helpful suggestions have been posted already (especially Paly Mom's great summary), but here are a few more ideas.

Colleges expect families to contribute to their children's college education, and they only offer need-based aid from their own institutional funds if the combination of family contribution plus federal and state aid isn't enough to cover college costs. It's a good idea to find out now how much colleges will expect you to be able to pay. You can get an estimate of your Expected Family Contribution (according to a couple of different formulas) by trying out an EFC calculator. The one at the College Board web site is easy to use and will give you a rough idea of what to expect: Web Link.

Some colleges give merit scholarships, which are not based on need. Merit scholarships might be based on academics, talent, leadership, community service, or whatever other criteria matter to each college. Usually merit scholarships give you a nice discount on tuition; they typically don't cover the total cost (though there are some schools that do offer a limited number of full-tuition or full-cost merit scholarships). Merit scholarships aren't necessarily just for straight A students; they are for students who are strong relative to the rest of the student population at that college. There are plenty of schools that offer merit scholarships to B/B+ students who have taken challenging courses in high school.

Last thing - someone mentioned that students loans for student who don't have financial need are limited to $2k/year. Actually, students without need can take out federal students loans of $5,500 in the freshman year, $6,500 in the sophomore year, and $7,500 in the junior and senior years. It's better not to borrow so much, but the loans are available for those who need them.

Really last thing - if California students are willing to look in the Midwest and South, they will find some great schools with lower costs.

Posted by disgusted, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

My goodness, what snobs you all are. Listen to yourselves. I work at Stanford and Live in Palo Alto and I just don't understand why everyone thinks they are better than everyone else.

Posted by Soccer Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

A few ideas I did not see on the thread yet...Go to work for Stanford. They have a benefit for staff with a five year vesting period. Stanford will pay 1/2 of Stanford's tuition rate toward your child's college education even if they do not go to Stanford. Currently the benefit is at $18,000 and it goes up as Stanford raises its tuition. Another idea is to sell your house and rent in Palo Alto. The savings in property taxes alone will go a long way toward paying for college. Lastly, ask relatives to make a commitment to a savings plan - no matter how little, it all adds up - much better than the iTunes certificate for birthdays and holidays.

Posted by been there, a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm

The Stanford benefit is a terrific one, but most departments at Stanford are reluctant to hire people over the age of 40 (excluding professors). You need to get the job when your kids are young and stay there through high school. Because Stanford salaries are low and you have to work for at least five years before getting the benefit, it's not worth it to take a job there just for one kid.

That said, Stanford isn't hiring these days.

Asking people to give your kids money can backfire as colleges expect 100% of that money to go toward educational expenses. If the money is under the parents' control, the colleges aren't quite as greedy.

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 3, 2010 at 5:57 pm

For the record, the original poster's numbers are exaggeratedly high. Average UC GPAs range from 3.5 at the low end (Merced, Riverside, Santa Cruz) to 4.1 for Berkeley, and even with next year's price jack, tuition at any campus will come within a stone's throw of $11,000, not $30,000. Likewise, Santa Clara can't possibly cost $60K (more like half); even Stanford and the Ivies are still under $40K.

On the other note, call it snobbery if you like, but going from K-12 in Palo Alto to college at Cal State WILL be a shock, and likely a disappointment. Aside from maybe the SLO campus, CSU is, academically and objectively speaking, of a lower caliber. Gunn and Paly are basically pre-Berkeley.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Green Acres
on May 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Latest data on Santa Clara University - total 1st year costs $63K which includes tuition and living on campus. UCs are $35-$38K for residents which includes tuition and living on campus (dorm)

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Grade point averages aren't immediately comparable. You have to find out how the prospective university or university system does it. SOme like to state their GPA's according to some system. Like, my kids don't attend colleges in California, so if they were to cite their UC-calculated GPA from high school, it wouldn't have truth or meaning to the millions OUTSIDE of California.

Posted by Vicki O'Day, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 3, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Parent, I wonder if you might be looking at one of the graduate programs for Santa Clara. According to this (Web Link), the cost of attendance for 2010-11 is about $53,700, which includes a very generous allowance for personal expenses and transportation.

The cost of attendance at UC's range from about $29k (Merced) to $31k (Berkeley). Search for "cost of attendance" at each college's web site to find the most up-to-date numbers. The cost of on-campus housing at some of the UC's is high, so students can reduce their costs quite a bit by living in a co-op or other off-campus housing.

Posted by life is tough, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

"Seriously consider the military."

Yes, and IF you come back alive and IF you are not severely injured physically or mentally, try and get the military to deliver on the education promises they made.

Posted by grunt, a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm

You have a better chance to be run over by a car on a city street than to get killed in the military. The military paid for a lot of my education and the benefits are currently better than ever. And if you do survive the New GI Bill will pay a large chunk of your expenses. If you get slightly injured, UC and CSU will waive your tuition. Of course, I understand we are talking about the more privileged elite kids of Palo Alto who probably have higher expenses and demands given many here are so quick to point out how superior Gunn and Paly are.

Posted by Roger, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Palo Alto stopped being a place for middle class a while back. You surely want the best for your kids, but give them what you can afford (and maybe moving to Palo Alto is something you cannot afford).

Posted by Roger, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm

One more thing: why spend $60K/year on an average B student?

Posted by hamster, a resident of Portola Valley
on May 3, 2010 at 9:50 pm

it's easy, worried mom. Either sell your house when it's time to send the kids to college, or have them go to Stanford and live at home with you.

Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2010 at 9:59 pm

I am not sure where are we going with this post.
As anywhere else, after a few helpful responses it's turned to privilege/elite/Palo Alto/stress. Mom asked a question, was looking for an advise, not judgment. I opened it because of a similar concerns. Let's keep it close to the SUBJECT and THANK YOU everybody, who input on the topic

Posted by DreamT, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2010 at 10:08 pm

The original post reads like a bait for an answer "but no, you're not middle class, you're better"...

Keeping it close to the subject, the question was: "How can we fund our 2 kids' education?"

If you can't afford your lifestyle with your present financial commitments, trade down. Move out. You bit more than you can chew, so be honest with yourself and do the right thing for your family. Living in stress and denial is not going to improve family dynamics, and it will also teach the wrong lessons to your kids.
By the way, with regards to the typical Palo Alto resident, you could be considered lower-middle class, with a poor budget planning sense to boot. Just look at your cash-flow.

Posted by Worried Mom, a resident of Midtown
on May 3, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I started this thread because I wanted to "hear from middle class parents of average students about how they prepare for dealing with ever rising costs and admission requirements of colleges these days".
Thank you all who gave helpful advice. I simply ignored all the judgmental comments.

Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2010 at 4:24 am

So many kids these days enter college "undeclared" and have no idea what to major in or what their interests are. Many leave school either because they don't like the community the school is located in, they are homesick or just not ready for college. Perhaps community college is better for this kid. On the other hand it is wise to pick a school large enough with many choices - some kids change majors 3 0r 4 times. With budget cuts it is harder to switch majors at the UC's and CSU's - maybe going out of state is the best choice.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2010 at 6:13 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

A wanderjahr combined with a bit of hard remunerative labor might work for some. Early GI Bill students were notoriously serious, often studying in a Quonset full of squalling offspring.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Mountain View
on May 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

I think one of the point the original poster is making is that a lot of the scholarships, work-study, and other financial aid that's out there (and there is a lot) is reserved for kids whose family income is around $100K a year or less. In the Bay Area, a lot of families' incomes are much higher, but our expenses are much higher, too, so we are kind of stuck in a "doughnut hole." If we made our Bay Area incomes in, say, Indiana (or many, many other places in the country) we'd be considered wealthy. The colleges don't make adjustments for your cost of living or housing costs. So kids may be willing to apply for the work study and scholarship programs, but may not get them because there are so many kids applying whose families have higher demonstrated need.

People in our situation are not crying poor-mouth, but it is becoming a problem. You don't want to spend all your savings on your kids' college education, but if they can't get loans, financial aid, etc. because of your income, you're stuck. Our community colleges are great, but they are not necessarily the right choice for every kid. And they are suffering from budget cutbacks, so the future there is looking a little shaky.

Posted by a mom and employer, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm

In general, a child who has not had to work to save any of their own money for expenses and who does not have any chores at home is going to be in trouble beyond college regardless of the glamour of their diploma. Just knowing that your mommy and daddy love you isn't enough once you need to actually WORK in the real world. You are not doing your child any real favors by shielding them from these realities. Yes, it's fantastic if you can find a job that you love, but this might be an unrealistic goal. Truly you can only expect to be paid if you are providing a value to someone other than yourself. This is not evil torture; it's simply the nature of life.

Posted by Not Spoiled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm

@mom and employer,

You are completely off topic, but in response:

I disagree. Children learn their spending habits from watching their parents. If a child is given an allowance but sees his parents spending frivolously, he will take his allowance and spend it too. If a child has parents who give careful consideration to their spending, he will do so also. My husband and I grew up with no chores and could ask our parents for money at any time. But we only asked when it was something worthwhile. Our parents were very practical and we learned our spending habits from them. Our parents give our children money at different occasions and our children are very careful about their spending. Most of it is stashed away immediately with no thought at all to "what can I buy with this?"

Your parenting sounds like this: "You can't have everything you want, so just accept that now. Life isn't fair so wake up to reality. Sure, you can try, but it won't work." Nice way to squash a youth's enthusiasm and curiousity for life and teach them complacency. This is a capitalist nation where dreams can come true if one tries. Allow your children to try.

Posted by KD, a resident of Mountain View
on May 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

The average GPA / SAT for Paly students accepted at UC Berkeley over the past 3-4 years has been 4.5 / 2150. Similar stats for other top schools on the Peninsula. FAFSA for families with W2 jobs living in high cost areas like the Peninsula is a (bad) joke. But so is paying $200,000 for 4 years of undergraduate schooling w/room and board. Seriously.

Posted by Check It, a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Wow DreamT,

Really, the very worst aspects of Palo Alto in one post. :)

He/she get to lecture others who worry about affording college:

1. Move away if you can't afford to live here--and a lecture about living beyond your means and how to raise your kids.

2. You're lower-middle class

3. You can't manage cash-flow.

I surmise Dream is worried about losing his job or is a nouveau rich IPO wanker.

Posted by MPmom, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I work at a local community college and can provide some very good feedback about UC/CSU and CC's. All of the public systems are very good, I believe it depends upon your family's expectations. Grades and college prep are not the sole factors for university success. Students go through quite a bit of transition and many students already enter with much pressure upon their shoulders to succeed (imposed by self and others). If you would like to consider the advantages of CC as a starting point, feel free to contact me. You can also talk with Foothill/DeAnza high school outreach folks. While I don't work at Foothill/DeAnza, FHDA offers many rigorous classes that are freshman/sophomore equivalent - especially through the Honors program. Transferring from a community college has many benefits and with the cost being $26/per unit right now, it's hard to beat. best-

Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Here's a good presentation from Ben Cohen (Ben and Jerry's) on how the government is bankrupting our investment in education by spending too much on unnecessary defense.

Web Link

Posted by Capbreton, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Don't limit your view to Canada. There are some good unis in places like the Netherlands -- Tilburg, Webster -- with classes in English and tuition around $5K per year. At those prices you can fly your kids home as much as you want and it would still be far cheaper than a UC program. Even out-of-country tuition for the UK universities will run you less than $20K, and they "like" US students because they pay more than residents.

Posted by DreamT, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2010 at 7:19 pm

"Check It",

What's with the bile? Please check your assumptions at the door: I do not reside in Palo Alto; we never benefited from an IPO; I am not worried about losing my job; my wife is a teacher and I earn roughly same as Worried mom; and finally we live within our means, having budgeted carefully both for our present and our family's future. All of which is completely irrelevant to this thread. So?

Worried mom declared:
"We have a house in Palo Alto which we bought 4 years ago and we spend a very significant portion of our income on mortgage and property tax."
She pointed out "We do not have that much money" and asked "How can we fund our 2 kids' education?"

My advice is relevant: trade down from a property that is an inordinate burden. Budget appropriately. Watch your cash flow in addition to simply looking for funds. This advice was also given by other posters on this board (such as sell & rent). Leave the ad hominem attacks and share some actual advice...

Posted by madwomann, a resident of Woodside
on May 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Worried Mom is right to be worried. Maybe she could let go of a few staff or one of the country houses? That's the challenge I was faced with a few years ago, when one of my sons accidentally burned down half his college dorm. You'd be amazed how much that Development Committee wanted just to keep him enrolled, and it wasn't half a new building.

Posted by Other Roger, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 4, 2010 at 9:28 pm

So Worried mom and her husband are in the top 5% of earners (Web Link)
but are house poor...

It's like driving a BMW 7-series when all you can afford is a Civic, but a house in Palo Alto is sacrosanct? Trade down. Your ego will be just fine.

Posted by Cupertino Re, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2010 at 3:29 pm


If you are worried about future of your children ... STOP throwing money
after Palo Alto real estate! Real estate appreciation is a thing of past now -- you can not have the cake and eat it too. I am sure if you rent in Palo Alto, you can save sizable amount for education for your two kids.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Quit your jobs and go on welfare.

Have your child put that he is an ethnic minority (other than asian) on his application papers, even if that isn't true.

You'll get subsidized 100% and the admission requirements for your child will be lower.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 21, 2010 at 8:30 am

A real suggestion - have your child participate in an "unusual" sport. Kids who have done fencing, crew, karate, etc. seem to have gotten into colleges and often received scholarships more than many other equally accomplished kids.

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