The College Cost Nightmare – What It Cost This Dad to Get 3 Kids Through College

Every year, as summer comes to a close, millions of parents around the country shake off the lazy days of summer to see their kids off to college. Whether their kids are just starting out or returning to college, emotions run high. As does the stress. The financial stress, that is. Some colleges make it easier than others to make those college payments but no matter how you slice it, college costs today are a real financial burden on parents.

When I made my last college payment for my youngest last year, my wife and I felt like prisoners that had just been released after eight years of incarceration. Somehow we survived. Somehow we got our three kids through college on a middle-class income.

I thought I’d share with you the details of what it cost us personally to make that happen. I’m hoping this information will help open your eyes to the real costs of college. I’m also hoping it will motivate you to start planning and saving for college right now.

By the way, like many Americans, we had delusions that our three kids would either get academic or athletic scholarships. One did and, as you will see below, it barely made a dent, thanks to all of the other costs, besides tuition, that parents have to contend with. Put your seat belt on this is going to be painful.

Child #1 – Private College

Total cost was $181,500.

  • Tuition: $125,000
  • Housing: $36,000
  • Food Plans: $12,000
  • Books: $4,000
  • Cash: $4,000
  • Ancillary Fees: $500
  • Subtract Scholarship: $45,000
  • Subtract Student Loans: $25,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #1: $111,500

Child #2 – Out of State State-School, In-State State-School and Study Abroad 1 Semester

Total Cost was $106,000

  • Tuition 1st Year Out of State School: $22,000
  • Tuition Years 2-4 In-State School: $12,500
  • Tuition Study Abroad Semester: $12,000
  • Housing: $36,000
  • Food Plans: $12,000
  • Books: $4,000
  • Cash: $7,000
  • Ancillary Fees: $500
  • Subtract Student Loans: $23,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #2: $83,000

The study abroad set me back an additional $15,500.

Child #3 – In-State Community College Year 1, Out of State State-School Years 2-4

Total Cost was $116,300

  • Tuition 1st Year Community College: $5,500
  • Tuition Years 2-4 Out of State State-School: $66,000
  • Housing: $27,000
  • Food Plans: $9,000
  • Books: $3,500
  • Cash: $4,000
  • Car – Senior Spring Semester: $1,300
  • Subtract Student Loans: $14,000

My out of pocket cost for Child #3: $102,300

Now let’s total everything up:

Grand Total Cost: $403,800

My Total Out of Pocket Cost: $296,800

What to do?

Foe parents just starting out, I have only this advice – save like your life depended on it. You must forge the habit of saving for college for each one of your kids. Depending on your income, your goal should be setting aside a minimum of 5% of your net income, per child, every year in order to make college manageable and minimize how much student loan debt you or your child will take on. If you have three kids, this means setting aside a minimum of 15% of your net income per year. If you can’t do 5%, do anything, but do something.

For those parents with kids nearing college age who have little college savings, you need to have an honest conversation with your children now about the amount of student loan debt they will have to incur in order to get their degree.

Student loan debt of $50,000 or more means your child will be living at home for a few years after college or renting for at least 10 years, as they will not be able to save enough of a down payment to afford buying a home until their net income increases or they pay off their student loans.

The cheapest way to go in order to lower your kids student loan debt is to send your kids to an in-state community college for the first two years and then to an in-state public college for the last two years, with them living at home the entire time. While this may not be the desired choice, it is the cheapest.

Unfortunately, thanks to average annual tuition increases over the past thirty years of 3% (Public) to 5% (Private) and 2.7% for room and board, college costs now equal or exceed the cost of buying a home for the average American. And the trend appears likely to continue.

The new American Dream is no longer buying a home, but paying off your student loans.

Be Sociable, Share!
Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley understands the difference between being rich and poor: at age nine, his family went from being multi-millionaires to broke in just one night, due to a catastrophic fire that destroyed his Dad's thriving business. For fourteen years they struggled with poverty. There were eleven in Tom's family, and they lived in constant fear of losing their home.

Driven by the desire to unlock the secrets to success and failure, Tom spent five years studying the daily activities of 233 rich people and 128 poor people. He discovered there was an immense difference between the habits of the rich and the poor. During his research he identified over 300 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” Tom decided to write a book to share what he learned. That book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals (1st Edition), went on to become an Amazon Bestseller in the United States forty times over a three year period. To give you some perspective, in order to be a true Amazon Bestseller in the United States, where you actually receive a specific Bestseller designation from Amazon, you need to be in the top 100 of all books sold by Amazon in the United States in a given day. Rich Habits did that for nearly thirty straight days, rising as high as #7, eclipsing such Bestselling authors such as Stephen Covey, Robert Kiyosaki and J.K. Rowlings. Imagine that - an unknown, first-time, self-published author selling more books than J.K. Rowlings!

Tom now travels the world, sharing his Rich Habits and motivating audiences at industry conferences, corporate events, universities, multi-level marketing group events, and global sales organizations’ presentations and finance conferences. He has even spoken on the same stage with famous entrepreneurs and personal development experts, such as Sir Richard Branson, Robin Sharma, Dr. Daniel Amen, and many others.

Tom has shared his insights on various national and international network, cable, and Internet television programs such as CBS Evening News, NBC News, Yahoo Financially Fit,, India TV, Australia, and a host of others. He has been interviewed on many prestigious nationally syndicated radio shows, including the Dave Ramsey Show, Marketplace Money, and WABC.

Tom has been featured in numerous print magazines—such as Money magazine, Inc. Magazine, SUCCESS Magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, Fast Company magazine, More magazine, Epoca Magazine (Brazil’s largest weekly) and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine—and various online publications, including USA Today, CNN, MSN Money,,, and the Huffington Post. Tom is a frequent contributor to Business Insider,, and a few other media outlets.

National publicity has garnered international media attention for Tom and his Rich Habits research spanning 23 countries. Broadcast media, online publications, and television throughout Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the United Kingdom, and Central and South America have shared his powerful message.

In an effort to help parents, grandparents, teachers and adults become success mentors to the younger generation, Tom released his second book, Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to be Happy and Successful in Life in 2014. This book was the self-help category winner of the 2015 New York Book Festival and Runner-up in the prestigious 2015 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest. In 2016 Tom released his third book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. This book provides the latest science on habit change as well as more of Tom's unique research on the specific habits that helped transform 177 ordinary individuals into self-made millionaires.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, and hold a master’s degree in taxation. As president of Cerefice and Company, CPAs, Tom heads one of the premier financial firms in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
Email Tom
| Download Media Kit


  1. good blog, thanks

  2. Good article, thanks

Speak Your Mind