In an essay at Slate, Melody Warnick writes how she and her husband made the difficult decision to quash their teenage daughter's hopes of going to a fancy—meaning expensive—art school out of state upon graduation. Warnick feels like a "monster" for doing so, but the middle-class family simply couldn't afford it, and the idea of her daughter being saddled with student debt for 20 years seemed foolish. In fact, Warnick doesn't understand why parents are so blasé about giving the green light to their kids to attend uber-expensive schools. She sees saying "no" as another part of her parenting duties. "Hasn’t it been my role all along to steer my kid toward smarter but seemingly less desirable choices?" she asks. "Carrots instead of Kit Kats, an early bedtime instead of an all-night YouTube binge?"
Children, of course, rebel against such restrictions, but that's because "they’re too young and myopic to see how this one decision could make their lives harder for a long, long time," writes Warnick. "We can." In their case, Warnick and her husband sat down with their daughter in her sophomore year of high school and laid out the financial realities. They'd saved $40,000 for her in a 529, less than they hoped, but life happens. With that and a part-time job, an in-state university or some combination of community college and cheaper private college seemed the best bet. Her daughter now agrees, and she applied to only two schools, with the higher of the tuitions a "doable" $16,000. At this point, writes Warnick, "just one thing is certain: When Ella graduates, her future will be her own." Read the full column. (Read more college costs stories.)