Meet Sarah Barker

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Sarah is not smiling about coming up with 12 years of college tuition in a 7-year span.

Sarah is not smiling about coming up with 12 years of college tuition in a 7-year span.

The SALT Blog has grown up a lot since we unveiled a new contributor. So, it makes sense that we provide a grown-up perspective, courtesy of Sarah Barker—a mother of three who’s figuring out the financial aid process as she goes along. Check out her story.

Do you hate talking with your parents about money? The feeling is probably mutual, if your parents are anything like me.

I would much rather risk infuriating my kids with the question, “Who was at the party on Saturday night?” versus asking, “Do you have any change from the $40 I gave you?”

For me, talking about money is just plain uncomfortable. I feel like I’m nickelling and diming my kids (and so do they), but hey, $15 bucks change is $15 bucks, right?

THE $750,000 QUESTION

The thing is, I recently had to have one of those hugely unpleasant money talks with the fam—it went something like this: “Kids, you need to know that Dad and I accidently forgot to save $750,000.” (That’s the amount we hoped to squirrel away to fully fund our three kids’ tuitions at their dream schools.) If your family is like mine, maybe you’ve had some of these painful talks too.

Having to save $750K in cold cash to pay for college is ludicrous—and I’m not talking about the singer with a similarly spelled name and his disgusting “Money Maker” song (I know, it’s just a song, just sayin’). However, the reality is that in 2 years, my kids will be experiencing college—all at once.

HAVING “THE TALK”

So talking about money—as it relates to college—has become a new thing in our family, whether I find the subject as distasteful as yesterday’s cold coffee or not.  Frankly, for me it’s easier to discuss with my kids why young people should use birth control versus talking about money, but I do digress.

Not being numerically inclined, I have had my head in the proverbial sand about the skyrocketing cost of college. So when my husband recently commented that we needed to come up with 12 years of tuition in a 7-year period, my head popped out of the sand and has been spinning ever since.

I find myself on a journey with my family that I never planned to take, and this one is not to Aspen. Suddenly, I need to know the difference between a Stafford loan and a Parent PLUS loan, as well as how to talk about them intelligently with the family. (Fun stuff!)  Maybe you are on a similar journey with your mom and dad, whether you like it or not.

MOVING FORWARD

So yes, I forgot to save $750,000 (my bad) and now I need to figure out how to borrow money—or change the college dream. I’ll be detailing my odyssey here as I try to get myself and my family up to speed on being smarter with money.

Money and student loans are very sexy topics, I know—but since my kids won’t spill to me about their personal lives (even though Facebook seems to know every gory detail), at least now we have something to talk about.

Have you had “the talk” with your parents or children? Let us know how it went in the comments.

About Sarah Barker

Sarah Barker manages the college internship program and runs focus groups at American Student Assistance. She is the mother of two college students and one soon-to-be college student. Follow her on Twitter: @Sarahjbarker1

8 Responses to Meet Sarah Barker

  1. Great post! I can’t wait to hear how you navigate through all the details of getting your kids through college without (any of you) taking on crippling debt.

  2. Sarah- we are right there with you – the only difference is we only had 2 children so our load is $500,000 over 6 yrs. yay! Great reading!

  3. I’ll be following you. With a junior in college and senior in private high school, this topic comes up almost daily! And we are 3 yrs in on a ten year plan for our college student! The only good news is with the high school student in private school we are used to paying 2 tutions :(

    • Jeanne, I hear you! The thing is, nobody really wants to talk about this stuff – but most families of college bound kids in America are dealing with high tuition costs. All of us are in the same boat trying to make this work for our kids – without sinking the family finances.

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