I was raised in New Jersey. I went to wonderful public schools throughout high school that prepared me well for college and medical school.
I believe in the importance of public schools and when my children were getting ready for kindergarten, I contemplated sending them to a private kindergarten.
I was shocked at the entrance examination and essays for the children that were beyond the requirements for my medical school applications. I was also concerned about the limited diversity of students in the private schools and the costs that were equivalent to private college.
I finally decided that we would go to public school for kindergarten and have no regrets with the journey my children had in the public education system in Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades.
Following excellent elementary school education my kids then moved on to Paul Revere Charter Middle School and Palisades Charter High School.
Once the kids were in high school, like many parents, I was concerned about the next step—both twins getting into college. While I was trying to find the “right college” for the twins, I found a book in the Topanga Library called “No Debt U” by Zack Bissonette.
Meanwhile they applied and got into a number of private and public four-year colleges after high school, including a few of the UCs and Cal State programs.
Once the acceptance letters came and the reality of trying to pay for the colleges hit our family, we really reflected on what we had learned from the book. This book was an excellent resource and set of ideas about how to help my kids graduate with no debt from college.
The cost of the colleges they got into was pretty astronomical. and I could not figure out a way that we could avoid debt. Therefore, following the suggestion of the “No Debt U” book, we had a family conversation.
We discussed that going to a community college would be a great financial choice for our family. In order to provide more of an “away-from-home experience,” the twins enrolled in Santa Barbara City College.
We rented an apartment room for each kid one block from the school. My son moved in with six guys and my daughter moved in with six girls. They had to cook for themselves and live quite independently, different than the expectations of a dormitory that would be part of a usual four-year school
However, I trained them throughout high school in ways to save money shopping, cooking and preparing all their own meals. They handled the transition to independent living very well at 18 years old.
At Santa Barbara City College they enjoyed small class sizes, lots of attention from the professors—who were top notch—and they both made grades that allowed them to transfer to the University of California after completion of junior college.
They enjoyed wonderful weather and a quick trip to our home by train many weekends. We also could easily commute up by train to watch baseball games and concerts my daughter participated in through her continued study of music.
At the graduation of each, I was so impressed, again with the diversity and inspiring stories of all the graduates of the community college.
One other thing I did to assure that they would have no debt was ask them both to work during college. They helped with their expenses.
Living expenses in Santa Barbara and tuition were still less than any of the lovely private schools they were admitted to, even with scholarships for athletics and their good grades.
One thing that is great about the junior college route is your child does not have to take the SAT or ACT. You can enter the junior college without that. For many children, that would relieve anxiety from them during high school.
In general, it is really important for families to realize that there is a great resource that is not going to crush a family financially and will help prevent your kids from being in debt after college.
There is a lot of peer pressure to go to certain schools with certain names and price tags, but really, in the end, a public school junior college can get you into a fine university and the cost of the credits in the junior college is a fraction of the cost of taking the same basic class at a private school or even a four-year state university.
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