Can I Afford College? If Cash < Tuition/Room& Board = NO

Here’s how to calculate college affordability:

$_______Cash Available for Tuition (family, scholarships, grants) NO – student loans don’t count as cash

–  $_______Cost of College (tuition, room & board)

= $_______Affordability (if a positive number you’re golden. if negative you get to change strategy)


Add up all the cash you have, cash you’re going to get from family, scholarships and grants. What’s that equal? If you’ve grown up like I did then that may equal somewhere between $0 and $5,000. Take that number, in my case $0 and subtract from it your total tuition, room & board. In this example you may end up with a dauntingly negative number. If you come out at $0 or better, then thank every person that helped you get there. You’ve been given a great gift. Still need help. Ok, I’ll use my example from when I went to college, but I’ll adjust the tuition costs by inflation so it’s applicable to today since costs have doubled in the last 15 years: $    4,500   Cash Available for Tuition. I had $500 and the college gave me a $1,000 annual scholarship (yay!) –  $ 120,000  Cost of College (tuition, room & board) =  -$115,500  Affordability (if a positive number you’re golden. if negative change strategy) Yes, that’s a negative $115,500. Oh but ut you get financial aid. Let’s be very clear about financial aid. It’s a loan. It’s debt. It’s likely federal debt which means you can’t escape it by any way other than paying it off, no, not even bankruptcy. That’d be a monthly payment of roughly $1,329 a month for ten years after you graduate. Here’s a better idea: change your strategy. I went to a ridiculously expensive private school for a year and a half. Yes, it was a good school and yes it was fun. Then transferred to a state school where I worked, paid all my tuition and expenses as I went. This too was a good school and this too was fun. Shocker! The difference is that I graduated without any debt from the state school, but spent the next 7 years paying off the blasted year and a half of private school. Please, don’t you or your parents take out student loans. Don’t handcuff your parents or yourself to poor decisions. Don’t limit your freedom or your dreams. Get a job. Work hard. Pay for school. Live at home if you need to. Have several roommates to cut costs down if you don’t live at home. Put some time in at community college. Yes, it’s real college too. The credits will transfer. Figure it out. You’re smart, you got into college. Slow down, do the math. The not so complex formula is noted above. How much cash do you have for college? How much does college cost? Is the remainder less than $0? If so, get to work.

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