Earlier this year, I shared the conversation I had with my dentist about his daughter’s dilemma on where to go to college. She had gotten into a couple of excellent University of California schools, as well as a well-known private university on the east coast. UC schools run about $25,000 per year. The east coast school is $50,000 per year. Needless to say, my dentist really wanted his daughter to attend a UC. But her first choice was the east coast school.
I just saw my dentist for a cleaning and was eager to find out what his daughter had decided. I wasn’t surprised when he said that she’s out on the east coast, and that she’s having the time of her life. I was surprised when he said he had to take out a second mortgage to pay for her tuition. After all, not only is he a dentist, his wife is an attorney. But $50,000 per year is a lot of money, especially when you consider it’s after taxes.
It’s not like my dentist is one of my best friends, so I didn’t feel comfortable asking if they’d saved money for college while their daughter was growing up. I don’t know much about their finances, but I’d like to think that they had saved enough to pay for at least one year’s expenses.
I have a strong emotional response to my dentist’s situation, although I can’t quite put my finger on what the emotion is, exactly. It’s just that they’re going through what my dad and I went through. I chose an expensive private school because it “felt right,” without regard to cost. I don’t know exactly how my parents paid for it, but I know it wasn’t easy for them.
I greatly appreciate the sacrifices they made for me, and I know I wouldn’t have been pleased if they’d tried to knock some sense in me during my senior year of high school. But if I could do things over again, I would definitely pick a less expensive school – or at least one of the schools that had offered me a scholarship. Knowing what I know now, I can’t believe I put my parents through that – or that they let me put them through that.
My dentist is fairly young, so I expect to be seeing him for many more years to come. I’m interested to see where his younger daughter ends up going to college, and what his older daughter ends up doing for a career. While you can’t put a price tag on the experiences she’ll have at her school, financially speaking, I find it hard to believe that the investment her dad is making will have been worth it compared to the education she would have gotten at a UC. But maybe she’ll prove me wrong.