Terrorized by the runaway cost of college

Paying for college is the stuff of nightmares. This summer when my family went camping at Deception Pass State Park I woke up from the worst dream I’ve had in years.

I dreamt that I was an archetype mother. My son — who was not really my son but an actor from television — was all grown up. He was showing me a steam locomotive he refurbished. It had the words “College Tuition” inscribed right next to the smoke stack.

The whole room felt warm and steamy because the coal fire was burning. My son pulled the train’s whistle and it was everything a train whistle should be. “This is wonderful,” I thought, “I’m very impressed.” I looked around at the crowd of spectators who nodded with approval.

Then, in the very next moment, the engine exploded and red hot embers spewed out at the audience.

I remember thinking two things: “Oh, my gosh! My son might be hurt,” and what was almost worse, “Oh, no! My son is hurting other people.”

The crowd of onlookers was either dead, burning or slowly dying of smoke inhalation. I did my best to help them, but I woke up hearing them scream.

I spent the next hour wide awake in our tent. I replayed the dream over and over in my head, trying to process it. As I listened to waves crash on the beach, I remembered that right before I fell asleep I thought about how much fun it would be to go to Hawaii. “We should live a little,” I thought. “My kids won’t be young forever.”

One part of that sentiment is definitely true. My children will be 18 before I know it. Tuition bills loom ahead.

I’ve heard pundits say that college costs are like a runaway train. But my brain is telling me that college costs are a locomotive blowing up in my face and hurting all of us.

When I graduated fifteen years ago the private university I attended cost $30,000 a year. Nowadays, it costs $62,801. That’s way more than a student could finance herself through part-time jobs.

The total cost of attendance for the University of Washington at present is $27,112 a year. Western Washington University costs $22,670. How can kids afford this?

Clearly, it’s time for mom and dad to come up with a better college savings plan. Don’t worry. I’ve got it all figured out.

My family likes camping, right? We could set up the tent in our backyard — for the next 20 years. Then we’ll rent out our house and live on dandelions and blackberries. All the money we save can be funneled into 529 accounts and GET. I suppose we’ll have to work out some deal with the neighbors where we can use their shower, but that’s no big deal.

Saving for college — done! But what about retirement? Hmm … I’ll need another strategy.

Can you make money selling your own blood?

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

More in Life

Bob Jepperson’s Wild Love Story

A perfect circle of sounds, pictures and storytelling from the Anacortes author.

‘Shape of Water,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ lead Golden Globe nominations

“The Post” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” also collected a number of nominations.

These eight dogs are waiting for loving homes

Meet Rex, Izzy, Poem, Patrick, Lorraine, Izze, Ivy and Charlie Brown.

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang is known for his people skills

The city’s top cop’s calm demeanor and holistic approach earns him the nickname “Yoda.”

Three posh places to escape this winter in north Puget Sound

Whether it’s wine country, backcountry or the seashore, a relaxing retreat is close at hand.

Getting a glimpse of what’s coming as we age

Everett Public Library reading to help you understand the changes ahead in your elder years.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Most Read