A mother of five children in Bath, Me., admitted on the New York Times’s Motherlode blog earlier this year that she and her husband had no college savings. Their son, a high school junior, was about to leave for a college tour with some leftover Easter eggs for food, a tent and his one good pair of pants.
The essay, by Meadow Rue Merrill, struck a nerve. Many commenters blamed her and her husband for spending money on after-school enrichment instead of saving for college. With an income in the mid-five figures, however, there was never going to be much excess.
I wondered what the Merrills would say to their children about the lack of funds, and I wrote my own post with some suggestions. But there is a different tactical question that faces this family and many others like it now: What should they actually do once senior year arrives and there are no college savings?
Their numbers are almost certainly growing. In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families. <Read more.>