Families with more than one child always want to provide for each in equal measure. We can’t permit one of our kids to attend an expensive summer camp, if we can’t afford to send the others when their time comes. A noble thought, but not always the best answer.
When it comes to really significant issues like education, I have always advocated for finding a way to provide all of your children with the best option, not depriving the whole household of the experience for purely financial reasons. Most educational opportunities that your children will actually want to experience – and that you will want to support financially – have provisions for offering financial aid, when needed. Moreover, financial aid forms from most school and college scholarship services calculate need by factoring income and expenses, then arriving at a dollar amount that the family can afford within their budget for education expenses. If that amount is $20,000, then that is what is available to pay for one, two, three, or more children. The number is simply divided by the number of children in the family who will be attending tuition-charging institutions. One school might well be big enough.
It is certainly true that there are added complications in some cases that will render this basic concept more challenging. For example, some schools and colleges have limited financial aid budgets and apportion grants and loans in various ways. But the concept still holds: The amount of money a family has available for children’s education is generally a fixed sum that must be divided between the number of children in the family who attend tuition-charging schools. One question that is often asked by parents is this: Would it be better to send our children to separate schools or colleges, to maximize their individual financial aid packages? That question should be asked in the admissions offices of each school at which your children have interviews. In general, though, if your children are all qualified for the institutions they are seeking, the answer will be no, the aid packages will be similar, whether at one or multiple schools.
The question – Is one school big enough? – has two other components to consider, as well. First, does one school fully meet the needs and aspirations of more than one of your children? If so, one school may serve two or more of your children very well. Finding this “right fit” must be at the top of the list of priorities for all families – as opposed to choosing one school for more than one child because of minor conveniences like drive time or matching vacation dates!
Second, is one school big enough to accommodate the personalities of two or more siblings, especially if there is a history of sibling strife at home? In some cases, a dominant sibling may have a long record of oppressing a more recessive brother or sister around the home, in school, or on the playing field. In such situations, most importantly for the battered sibling, each child might be more likely to thrive in his own school. In many other cases, however, siblings who have fought continuously at home can become great and supportive friends when away at school or college. At home, it must be remembered, much of the conflict may have been jousting for the attention or affection of Mom or Dad. Away at school, the siblings have a reason to bond with one another: They are otherwise alone against the world, at least until the end of the semester!
Carter P. Reese
Director, Informed Educational Solutions
- Some Colleges Discount Tuition for Siblings (usnews.com)
- Paying for College: Learn about Financial Aid, Scholarships and FAFSA (bigfuture.collegeboard.org)
- Parents are THE Role Models (InformedEducationalSolutions.com)
- Parenting…Studies Show!… (InformedEducationalSolutions.com)