Money Advice for Parents of Kids who are Grad School Wannabees

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior

Some baby boomers have completed the task of helping their kids through college. Some of those kids are now contemplating graduate school, the kind that may cost a lot of money. These include law school and business school, where scholarship money is rare. Why are scholarships rare for those programs? Because many exist primarily to feed cash to the university. Our culture and economy do not need more lawyers or MBAs but the colleges don’t want you to think in that direction.

Instead, they want students to think like the clueless survey respondents mentioned in this article who think that student loan debt is no big deal.

Wait, let me be more accurate with a quote from the article:

The more college loans and credit-card debt that young adults 18 to 27 have, the higher their self-esteem — and the more control they feel they have over their lives. They tend to view debt positively, rather than as a burden.

This attitude is beyond sad. It’s pathetic.  These goofball students – when they graduate – will learn too late that debt is a big deal.

My first advice to parents of grad school wannabees is to make sure your kids understand that if they insist on going to grad school (thus further delaying their entry into a productive economic life), they will be on their own financially. This is critical because if you are like most baby boomers, you are woefully lacking in the retirement savings department.

My second piece of advice for parents and kids alike is to understand that you do not have to incur debt to attend a professional school. I know, because I made it through law school without borrowing a penny and without any help from my parents. How did I do this? I prepared. I knew that I had to. My parents were very generous and paid my way through undergraduate school. This was such a blessing. However, I still remember a brief conversation I had with my father during my senior year of college. I mentioned that I was considering taking a fifth year to earn a Master of Engineering degree. He calmly said “that’s nice but you will have to finance that yourself.” I appreciated his directness. He was right not to take on more financial burden on my behalf. After all, he had three more kids behind me!

So my plan for financing law school was simple. First, I targeted an in-state public school with reasonable tuition. I worked in a full-time engineering job for four years and saved enough money to pay for three years of tuition and my basic living expenses. (Yes, it can be done because I did it.) Third, after my first year of law school, I took on a part-time law clerking job at a local law firm. I kept this job for  most of law school, including summers. Fourth, I did well enough in school to earn an appointment as a legal writing instructor, which was also a paying gig.

Now as a matter of full disclosure, I married Mrs. ToughMoneyLove during my first year of law school. She was gainfully employed so we were able to upgrade our standard of living based on her income. Her contributions to our family income were a windfall to my DIY grad school finance plan.

So don’t concede any more territory to the student loan racketeers. If you need to get grad school out of your system by actually attending, pay for it yourself.

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3 Responses to “Money Advice for Parents of Kids who are Grad School Wannabees”
  1. Walnut says:

    I am currently finishing my last two classes for my MBA. I paid for my undergraduate myself by working two part time jobs and pairing it with a nicely paying internship.

    My employer reimburses 75% of my graduate school tuition and expenses. I attend class at night and will be finishing in precisely three years. Students looking to pursue advanced degrees should seek full time employment. Often times the employer will help cover tuition, books and fees. I also feel that students who are employed during their MBA have more to contribute to the discussion than those students with absolutely no experience.

  2. Snowy Heron says:

    Good advice. I paid for about 1/3 of my college tuition myself, a combination of earnings from a wide variety of part time jobs and a few student loans (paid off within 6 months of graduating), and once I was working full-time, decided to go back for my MBA in finance with tuition assistance from my employer. My employer paid for 100% of my tuition, but not books and fees. I did get one small student loan to pay the fees and books (hey, $12,000 in salary before taxes can only go so far!), but again paid it off within 6 months of graduation. It is not easy to work and go to school at the same time – I did not have a lot of fun in school, like a lot of people do, but I enjoyed my classes and have been gainfully employed for virtually my entire adult life.

    There’s nothing wrong with growing up tough.

  3. MasterPo says:

    Once again, you can’t make a cost/benefit analysis on education. Having a degree, undergrad or grad, may not get you a job but NOT having the degree can definately keep you from getting it!

    The world may not “need” more MBAs, lawyers etc. But if all applicants have an MBA or legal degree and you don’t then you start at a major disadvantage.

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