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College or Bust

So the kid came home from school Tuesday and announced that she wants to go to the Art Institute now (she will be entering 9th grade in the fall).  A few weeks ago, it was Duke, and before that it was Harvard.  She also told us that tuition, fees and books for AI by the time she would be attending would be in the neighborhood of $80,000 per year.


Um... what?!


(A) The kid does not have the grades to even get in to Harvard or Duke... not sure about the standards for AI.


(B) The kid does not have $80,000 (or $320,000 for a 4-year degree) - and neither do any of her four parents.


(C) Is it even possible that college costs this much now???


(D) How the heck am I supposed to pay for that? 


(E) Is it wrong to hope she continues down the path of mediocrity so I'm not out $320k?  Just kidding...  Sort of. 


(F) Maybe the Mayan calendar is correct: the world will be ending 12-21-12 and I won't have to worry about this at all.


I get that AI is an expensive private school.  I even toyed with the idea of going there years ago, as I am a graphic designer by trade.  But I thought even the most expensive private schools hovered around $30-40k per annum.   Was I THAToff?


I think it is way too late to start a 529 plan now, since she's 14 and entering high school.  Will she be doomed to suffer a life-long Stafford payback?


So this week I'll be doing lots of research on college costs, savings options for older kids, estimated cost of college from 2013-2017, etc.  I'm open to your ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and I'll blog about what I find out next week... just in case the Mayans were wrong...