OT - How much more would you pay for your kid to to to Michigan?

Submitted by rdlwolverine on March 30th, 2011 at 10:32 PM

My parents both went to Michigan and my brothers and i all went there.  None of our kids have gone to Michigan and my son, a senior in HS, is the youngest of the generation.

He has been admitted to (in alphabetical order): Maryland (in-state), Michigan, North Carolina, Southern California, Tulane and Wisconsin.  Maryland and Wisconsin are definitely out of the picture.  Here is the cost of one year's tuition and fees and room and board at each of the schools.

Tulane - $29,000 (after scholarship offer)

North Carolina - $34,000

Michigan - $46, 000 (fincreases for third and fourth years)

Southern California - $52,000

He isn't sure about major but thinking of History with a minor in marketing.

We can afford to cover UNC without him incurring any student loans for undergrad and without me taking on any debt.  Michigan would probably require taking on some debt and perhaps delaying retirement for a year for me.

North Carolina is closest to home - about 4.5 hour drive.  MIchigan 8.5 hours.  New Orleans and Southern Cal - no realistic driving option.  (Maryland is about 15 minutes from home, which is why it is out of the picture.)

(There are emotional ties to UNC as well; my wife and I met there during grad school.  She went to UC Santa Cruz undergrad.)

How much more would you be willing to pay for your kid to go to Michigan in these circumstances.  Assume he really likes Michigan, but really likes the other three options as well.



March 30th, 2011 at 10:35 PM ^

If they truely wanted to go somewhere and were admitted there, I'd do whatever I could.  It's more important that they are happy and can get the education they want, then adding a year before I could retire.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:38 PM ^

First, congrats!  Tough question, considering UNC is a very, very good school.  I can't really answer your question, because quite frankly, it's a scary one.  If I could afford it though, if it meant living more frugally, I'd go w/ Michigan.  However, the UNC's and Georgia Tech's of the country are steals (financially).


March 30th, 2011 at 11:06 PM ^

On how much he loves Michigan. I applied to 2 schools; Michigan, and Hawaii, because I was going to get where I wanted to go, or go chill on the beach with hot island chicks.
<br>Does he really love Michigan, or is he lukewarm, and likes them all. If it's pretty equal, then just go to NC (I don't see Tulane worth the lesser money unless he loves it there...you'll pay the difference between NC back in airfare and the like).
<br>A shallow example...does he like basketball or football? I say that not because either is that important, but it illustrates the other stuff. The education is going to be great at NC, as well as Michigan (and really, the others too). Unless they're AWESOME in a program he knows he's going into, all pretty equal.
<br>But I don't love, or remember the work that much. It's the environment, the things I did, the people I met, and the experiences. Those stick with me. And I can't imagine they were better than anywhere else than Michigan (though I'm sure they come close).
<br>I had a co-worker who went to Harvard. Great education, obviously. But he was always jealous (his statement) of the comradery Michigan people seemed to have, rather than the cutthroat mentality he had to deal with.
<br>But if your son isn't feeling it, he should go where he'll make his own memories. Because they are the greatest if your life.


March 31st, 2011 at 8:02 AM ^


This is way too big an investment to worry about debt alone.  This is four years of your kid's life.  I spent four years at UM as an undergrad, and am currently working on my MAcc, and am sad to see my time here coming to a close.  The memories I have from being here are irreplacable, and this place turned me into a (Michigan) Man.  

As for major/minor stuff, I was interested in business as an undergrad, but also wanted to do political science.  I majored in business, as there are no minors in business at ross, and minored in political science.  But I also knew plenty of people who got dual degrees in business and their chosen liberal arts field.  They walked out with plenty of opportunities and the satisfaction of studying what they wanted over their 4 years.  

In my mind, the most important question to ask is how interested my son really is in his education.  Everyone needs to go to college, but if not a necessity, would my kid really be interested in going to class and studying his field of choice?  If yes, then the place that would give the best experience is where he should go.  That's what I did and I wouldn't change the results for anything.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:45 PM ^

That's what I had to do. It's great you are able to pay for your kid's education.  My parents came from poor backgrounds and put themselves through college, so their goal was to not have me have to pay for school, HOWEVER I wanted to go to UM (out-of-state 09 grad).  I have to cover the difference. Paying sucks, but it's worth it to me. Something to talk to your son about if it's a big problem. 


March 30th, 2011 at 10:55 PM ^

I graduated (in state, but 4.5 years with a masters in engineering), and I have almost the entire cost on my shoulders.  Still, I wouldn't have gone anywhere else if I were to do it over.  Other than maybe somewhere warmer in Southern California.  But I still doubt I would go elsewhere.

So it depends on what you place more importance on... if you and him don't mind him ending up with some debt at the end and don't mind the travel time, then by all means go with Michigan.  If you and him want him to stay out of debt or want him closer to home, then definitely go with UNC.

If he is deathly afraid of the cold and wants to get far, far away from you and you don't mind incurring a bunch of debt, then I guess go with USC.  But LA sucks, so I would say don't do that.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:48 PM ^

I think Michigan is worth the extra $12K.  11 years since I graduated it is amazing the number of michigan alumns you met compared to other big schools (I also met a ton from UVA and Cal). UNC is a very good school, but despite the rankings I do not put them as equals to UM/UVA/Cal.

USC is ok, but would also put them a notch below.  

I am just going by the number of people I've met from those schools throughout my career (consulting, finance, business school)


Champ Kind

March 30th, 2011 at 10:48 PM ^

In this situation, I'd go with UNC.  It's a great school and it is a better fit financially.  As a parent, the proximity would probably be a big deal to me.  It might not be a huge for the four years of college, but there's a chance that he'll meet his future wife in college and he'll definitely make some close friends.  Those people will be more likely to live near you if he goes to UNC.  So, his chances of settling down near you will be better if he goes to UNC.  To me, that's important.  I hope my kids never move more than a couple hours away.

I love Michigan, but I can appreciate the appeal of other schools.  North Caroliina has great academics and a beautiful campus.  Although, if you take extended visits, it may become clearer and all of this discussion will be moot.  Although, I'd throw USC out (good school, but too far and too expensive).  If you're going to spend that money, send him to Michigan.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:50 PM ^

If I were advising my son, I would tell him that there's no sense in paying $50k a year for a history degree. If that is his honest major, have him go to Instate U for undergrad. Then incur the debt for graduate school.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:28 PM ^

You hit it right on with that statement.  History degree is essentially worthless unless he wants to go to graduate school with it.  But since you said marketing, he could do the Ross b-school with a minor or double majory in history.  I can't think of many b-schools that are better for undergraduates than Michigan.  But tell him he'd need to work his butt off to get in.

I'd almost tell him to take out his own loans that way he understands the value of his education.  I know too many young adults that take it for granted when their daddy pays for it.  And then, his senior year, tell him you'll pick up his loans as a graduation gift since your seemingly already willing to pay 'em in the first place.  But this way, you come off as a great dad.  And your kid might have learned to take his studies seriously off the bat.

Personally, I'd send him to Maryland as it would be the cheapest.  Any "big" university will do him just fine as long as he has a desire to do well.  But that isn't an option (you didn't say why).


March 31st, 2011 at 1:04 AM ^

This is exactly what I was thinking when I read this post too.

In today's economy, it isn't enough to have just one college degree.  For most high-powered trades (law, medicine, MBA) it takes two degrees now.  It makes a lot more sense to get a History degree at Instate U and to save the big bucks for graduate studies.


March 31st, 2011 at 10:23 AM ^

My son is a senior as well.  He is still waiting to hear from Michigan and Case Western.  But is in at Univ of Ill.  Since he does not know what he wants to do and will enter in LS&A someplace.  I'm not opting for the $50k a year out of state school.  He will have a couple of private school options at about the same price as Michigan is instate.  Michigan for him is choice 1, 2 and 3 with everything else 4.  Unless your son is dying to be a Wolverine, or Michigan offers something he can't get at is other choices I'd save the money or let him pay the difference.

My dad paid for my college with this caveat "you are going to an instate public university unless they don't offer something you want to study".  I ended up at Michigan in Bschool which turned out great.

If we were out of state I'd be probably paying for Michigan because that is the only school he wants to attend.  Be careful how much brainwashing you do to your kids or you will end up like me.




March 31st, 2011 at 2:05 PM ^

Recent Case grad here (and still here for many more years). Case is definitely expensive, but because it is private, it does a pretty good job of merit based aid and if you work summers and some during the school year it is possible to make it out debt free. It is my understanding that in general private schools, although more expensive, do better at giving out merit based aid. Actually, that is why I didn't apply to Mich out of high school. I figured being an out-of-stater, I was at a significant financial disadvantage and coming from the Columbus area, I figured I would probably be black listed anyways.


March 31st, 2011 at 8:04 PM ^

That's very true. Coming out of high school, I applied to the big public universities, along with a couple of elite private ones. My sister applied to all small, private liberal arts colleges. Even my best scholarship offer was less than her worst.

I didn't get into the private schools I applied to (UChicago and Brown) but they would have taken care of just about everything had I been accepted. My biggest offer at a state school was ~15,000, which took off the out of state tag but nothing else.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:53 PM ^

depending on how the specific programs are ranked and which campus he likes more. Tulane and USC aren't great schools.

I have always thought that UNC and M were about the same overall in academics, but M has the better B school and Engineering program.


March 31st, 2011 at 1:28 AM ^

Excuse me USC isn't a great school? I'm not a huge rankings guy but the most recent US News & World report ranks USC higher than even UM. I'm probably just a homer because I loved all four and a half years of undergrad there but SC is a fantastic place for undergrad.

I definitely wouldn't pay SC prices to major in history though.


March 31st, 2011 at 9:26 AM ^

Also, USC has a very tight alumni network in Southern California.  If your kid had any desire to stay and work in SoCal, USC would be highly recommended.  IMO, that is the real value of a USC education despite the higher tuition.

I live in San Diego and my only reservation about sending my daughter to that school (despite being a Michigan alum) is safety since it located in a pretty rough part of LA.


March 31st, 2011 at 2:50 PM ^

On-campus safety at SC is very good. They take it extremely serious given the area it resides. I got stopped many times after dark just for being male and alone. That said, off campus living for when she is an upperclassman is going to cost a mint because you don't want her to rent a place anywhere near campus.



March 30th, 2011 at 10:56 PM ^

I was accepted to Michigan and wasn't sure whether or not to go since it's much more than the other schools I considered. I decided either way I'm going to have to take out some big loans so might as well attend the school I have dreamed about going to.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:58 PM ^

FYI, the cost of living at a dorm at Michigan is sky-high, something like $900/mo even when you're sharing a room with someone. Also each meal costs around $7 or so, which is clearly a ripoff (you can eat out every day for a price like that). You can easily pay $500/mo or less for housing by living in an apartment.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:19 PM ^

Room and board will be pretty close at most of those schools, with the big exception being USC.  The dorms at USC might be comparable, but that will probably be one year and he'll want an apartment - the cost of which will be anywhere from almost sky-high to way above sky-high, depending on the location and how wealthy the friends are that he wants to live with (likely very wealthy).  My friends who went to USC paid around 1500/month per person, and that was 5-8 years ago.  Plus, a lot of USC students want to live downtown or in other desireable parts of LA which are only that much more expensive. 


March 31st, 2011 at 10:54 AM ^

Real estate is astronomical here is SoCal. It's completely ridiculous and why I will never consider settling down here. As far as schools, I would pick UM or UNC over USC any day, but that's just me. Plus, the whole "LA" factor is so overblown. Honestly, it's got a lot to do, but so does every other city. Chicago puts LA to shame.


March 30th, 2011 at 10:58 PM ^

First, I agree with aaamichfan above--college is a pretty bad deal for most majors, including history. I'm a music major, but I'm going to school for free. My friends at Harvard business and at MIT are paying a lot, but it's justified by their likely incomes early in the game.

Second, I'd advise anyone deciding between schools which seem to be roughly equal in atmosphere/feel/opportunities to contact some faculty from a department they're interested in. Email professors and ask a few questions, and ask if they would mind a five minute phone call. It'll be pretty obvious who the quality people that can be mentors are, and surrounding oneself with that kind of guidance and leadership is honestly more important in my opinion than the ranking of the program or school.

Third, remind your son to be thankful for so many blessings.

Zone Left

March 30th, 2011 at 10:58 PM ^

I'd leave it up to your son. I'd encourage him to go away from where his high school friends are going. 

I'll add that USC has an awesome, passionate network on the West Coast. UCLA and Cal are probably better schools, but despite their stereotype as vapid surfer boys/girls, they stick together and are very successful as a group--possibly moreso than the other big California schools. Also, really hot co-eds!

Finally, try to get him to focus on a hard science or a marketable skill. Maybe major in marketing and minor in history. Undergrads have it tough now, especially the ones without a defined skill set.

Best of luck and I hope he goes to Michigan.

Zone Left

March 30th, 2011 at 11:11 PM ^

No, I'd sit him down and make sure he understands his options and costs. Maybe even discuss reality afterwards with expected student loan payments (if any) and what the average ___ major from each school earns monthly in their first job if that information is available. There has to be a better method to learn how to budget than my method--eating ham sandwiches for a week at the end of each month when I ran out of money. This is especially important in Southern California if he chooses that route.

I think college is the first huge decision a lot of kids really make on their own and that it's important they understand options and costs vice being told what's best for them.


March 31st, 2011 at 3:52 AM ^

I'm a junior at Michigan from Texas, and my final choices were between UT and Michigan (a dfference between $17,000 and $47,000 a year).  My dad has told me my whole life that if I worked hard enough to get into a good university, we will find a way to pay for it.  When I decided to go here, I did it realizing that I would be over $100,000 in debt when I graduate.  All the loans are under my name, but when I graduate we will both be making payments on it in an attempt to pay it off. 

To me, the decision of picking a college shouldn't come down to the money. The quality of education and atmosphere are much more important factors.  I worked hard my whole life to get into a great university, and I was rewarded with having a choice of where to go.  Yes, I will really feel it when I graduate and have to start paying my loans off, but to me, Michigan is well worth it.  I would hate to have to go somewhere else always knowing that it was my second choice and I could possibly be making more of myself.


March 31st, 2011 at 1:28 AM ^

USC has been on the rise academically in the last few years, and actually ranked above UCLA for the first time this year.   While the UC system has been affected by the state budget problems, USC has been really aggressively trying to improve their standing as a research university.   They've been poaching really desirable faculty and the college of arts and sciences just received an unrestricted 200 million dollar donation, the largest of its kind ever.  So USC is climbing.  




March 30th, 2011 at 11:19 PM ^

Why dont you just give him a flat rate you are willing to pay and ask him to choose. If he chooses a school which is more than you can pay he has to incur debt. If he chooses one that will be fully covered, awesome!


March 30th, 2011 at 11:25 PM ^

The only problem with that approach is that 17-18 year olds don't always make decisions for the right reasons, and you don't want him to pick a school he thinks he'll like less just because he doesn't want to worry about debt.  He doesn't yet understand that it will likely be worth it, and you'd hate for your kid to make the wrong decision. 

I'd say find out what school your kid wants to go to most, cost aside, and then figure out how to make it work for him.  If it means he takes a little debt, or you shell out a little more, this is one of the things you don't want to go cheap on.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:35 PM ^

I agree. I am one the people who came out of college with a religion degree, went to seminary, and now must pay back an unreal amount of debt. I went to the school I loved though and worrying for the next 15 years about paying them back is worth it, its where I met my wife.

Either way the most he would likely go in debt is roughly 48,000 which is not much to pay for a quality education.


March 31st, 2011 at 1:20 AM ^

I agree with half of this.  Have the kid decide what school he'd choose if cost had nothing to do with it.  Always a good starting point.

But there are way worse reasons for a kid to pick a school than the debt he'll incur.  He may be 17-18 and potentially not as likely to make the soundest decision - but he's also old enough to make that decision and live with the consequences.  My parents' approach was that they would pay for a certain amount, and any beyond that I had to figure out myself.  I don't think parents should stretch their finances and burn money for a certain school.  They should decide what they can afford.  Because, again - 17-18 year olds.  The flip side of that is that the parents mortgage the farm to pay for a school the kid thinks is his dream school and two years later he finds he doesn't like it at all.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:44 PM ^

Say you'll pay $35,000ish (approximate cost of UNC, which you said he was comfortable with)/year for him to go to school.  Then let him figure it out.  If Michigan/other more expensive than that school is really calling to him, he'll be fine with incurring the extra debt.  If not, he'll go somewhere else. I f he likes Michigan enough to go there, despite having to shoulder some of the cost, good for him.  If he likes Michigan maybe slightly more than UNC/Maryland/wherever, but not enough to pay for it himself, than he doesn't like Michigan enough more for you to stretch to pay for it.  If you tell him that he's going to have to pay for it and he still chooses Michigan and you decide to use that just as a "test" of sorts, you can still pay for it all, if you wish, or just help him with the loan payments when they come due, or whatever you'd like.  But at least you'll get a sense of how much he likes Michigan vs. everything else and how much of his liking Michigan is partly based on the family legacy there.  That might make it more "his" choice as well, if he feels any pressure, whether he'll admit it or not, to go there just for your sake.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:29 PM ^

To answer your question... I wouldn't pay much more, espeically at the expense of my retirement (always pay yourself first).  My kid, on the other hand, can pay the difference.  I'm not saying I'd allow him to incur $50K in debt, but $10K isn't over the top.

Has he looked into offsetting those additional costs via work study, applying for every scholarship available, etc? 



March 30th, 2011 at 11:30 PM ^

I had to pay for my own UofM tuition and I just think its crazy when I hear parents paying for all their kids college. Especially when they may become history majors and this sort of thing. I'm all for investing in education but when it's 40g's+ and the return for most history majors is less than that/year I start to wonder. Now if you have money to blow, that's another thing, my parents didn't, but I'd say I got better grades because I had to pay for it.


March 31st, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

There's a lot more that goes into what I'm willing to pay for college, whether for me or my kids, than the income coming out.  The experience you have in college is priceless, history degree or BBA.  How much I pay for my kid to go to school is not going to be affected by what he wants to study - especially since he'll change it 3 or 4 times once he gets there anyway.  My college experience had very little to do with what I studied there, and much of what I got out of Michigan was outside of the classroom. 

And lastly - what your kid studies is not the only thing that determines how much money he makes.  There are kids with BBAs and engin degrees who aren't making a penny, and I had a sociology degree (LS and play) and I bring in about a quarter mil a year (and my UM connections have gone a long way to get me there) so this whole "if your kid wants to be a history major send him to in-state U" is a whole lot of garbage.  End rant.


March 30th, 2011 at 11:39 PM ^

As someone mention before Georgia Tech is a great bargain, as well as UGA. Residency is easy to achieve in Georgia (1 year if I remember right), and after you are a resident of the state you are eligible for the HOPE scholarship which pays full tuition as long as you maintain a 3.0 GPA. Essentially your kid could get 3 of the 4 years of education for free. Just something to consider possibly. 


March 30th, 2011 at 11:51 PM ^

Does he have any merit scholarship offers from the other schools? If so, fax in the offers to UM along with a well-written letter from you and your other alumni relatives explaining that although your family loves UM, they would need to make a comprable offer for your son's attendance to be affordable. 

It might sound a bit pretentious, but my alumni grandparents were seriously offended when I got a full ride from Cornell and no merit money from Michigan. They wrote a letter expressing that, attached my offers, and UM magically found about $10K more per year for me on top of the financial aid and outside schollies I already had. Use the connections well.



March 31st, 2011 at 10:33 AM ^

I'm an alumni, my farther was an alumni, my wife is an alumni, 3 aunts and 1 uncle are alumni - and my son has no answer yet from U of M admissions after applying in Oct with a 31 ACT and a GPA 3.6 in 80% honors and AP classes.  

Being an alumni does not mean crap as far as I can tell.  I obviously have not been donating enough.


March 31st, 2011 at 4:25 PM ^

Yes, but did you call or write like the above poster did?  The extra effort does a lot.  Plus, his effort was only for more money, not for admission.

(also, nitpick, but not really - you are an alumnus, your father is an alumnus, your wife is an alumna.  Saying "3 aunts and 1 uncle are alumni" is correct, though)