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    We're Fighting About Money

    An expert answers your questions about paying for college

    Judy Moseman

    I had a big fight with my parents about the way I spend money. I know I need to save for college, but I also don't want to miss out on all the fun I can have with my friends—and where I live, it takes money to have fun. I don't know what my parents' problem is. I work and earn my own money, so shouldn't I be able to decide how to spend it?

    You're exactly right: You do need to save for college. And, yes, you should be able to decide how to spend the money you have earned. However, you also need to be responsible and contribute to your own education. This is an ideal time to surprise your parents by sitting down with them to talk openly about the costs of going to college and to determine with them what is fair for you to pay. Maybe you'll agree to pay for your books and your spending money, or for your dorm room, or for part of your tuition. Once you and your parents have decided together on what is reasonable, then you have the freedom to spend what you earn beyond that amount. Having an agreement with your parents reduces the likelihood of another "big fight" with them and gives you a great opportunity to show maturity and responsibility.

    You might want to check out "Will Work for Fun!" on page 42 for ideas on cool part-time jobs in college to help you meet expenses.

    Don't Want to Live at Home

    Since I'm going to a school that's close to where I live, my parents say I should live at home in order to save money. But I really don't want to live at home. I've looked forward to being out on my own and now that may not happen. Is there anything I can do or say that will help them see that living in the dorm is worth the expense?

    If this is really a cost issue, you and your parents need to know some schools will reduce your aid package if you don't live on campus. You may miss out on some money that would make on-campus living possible for you.

    There also may be another reason: Your parents may not be ready for you to move out of their home. Talk to them to find out their real reason for wanting you to stay at home with them. If it's not about money, tell them research shows living on campus significantly enhances your educational experience and makes it more likely you will persist in your education and graduate from college. It also helps prepare you for living on your own after college. A college admissions officer could help you list the advantages of living on campus. That information could help you convince your parents.

    If it works out for you to live on campus, you can help Mom and Dad adjust to your being gone by staying in touch with them and visiting them regularly. Help them begin to "let go" by being understanding and patient and attentive, even as you enjoy some new freedom.

    If you do end up living at home, be sure to get involved on campus in other ways so you can make connections with people and build friendships. Join some clubs or organizations. Spend time studying with students you meet in your classes. Eat in the campus coffee shop where you'll meet other students. And invite your new college friends to your home. Students who are away from home love being able to get away from campus and be in a family setting from time to time. Offer to order a few pizzas and rent some videos and have your friends over to hang out with you.

    A Job Instead of College?

    I have two older brothers in college, and my parents already seem to be sinking financially because of it. Even though I want to go to college, I don't want to put the extra burden on Mom and Dad. So I'm thinking about just getting a job after high school instead. Is that a good idea?

    No. You are important, too, and should not have to limit your educational opportunities just because your brothers were born first. On the other hand, I respect your concern for your parents. You need to know that having three in college may actually help your brothers too. Since you are all dependent on your mother and father, you may very well be in a better position for all of you siblings to get significant financial help from multiple sources, including the government.

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