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Does God want you to spend $300,000 for college?



Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 06/24/17

That’s what it costs for four years at premiere Catholic university of the United States, Notre Dame, and the New York Times is wondering if that’s a good deal.


Families with teenagers starting this fall can expect to pay close to $300,000 over four years, assuming costs increase 3 percent or so each year. Even families with incomes over $100,000 who qualify for financial aid will still probably pay a whole lot more than they would at their flagship state university — easily $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000 more. All of which invites an obvious question: In what holy book is it written that we owe anything like this kind of expenditure to each of our children? The Rev. John Jenkins, 63, would seem like an excellent person to ask, and not just because of his priestly collar. While he is not a parent, he is a son, one of 12 children who grew up in Omaha. And while his father was a doctor, his parents put the dozen children through Catholic schools and then expected them to spring for half of their subsequent college educations, that way teaching them something about value on top of the lessons in values. So I asked Father Jenkins to point to some of his favorite religious readings and teachings that might shed light on the question of just how much hustle, sweat and sacrifice families should expect of themselves. We spent the most time talking about a part of the Catholic Catechism that discusses the family in God’s plan. “Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children,” it reads. One question that bedevils most families with children who can afford to save something is whether they should prioritize retirement savings or college savings. The passage here seemed to echo that line of inquiry and answer it squarely: Providing for the financial security of a surviving spouse in old age is on an equal plane with shoveling money away for tuition payments. God’s plan here would then conflict with the traditional financial planning rule that says that it’s best to save for retirement first, since it can be harder and more costly to borrow (say, through a reverse mortgage) for retirement than it is to borrow for college. Thus, better to make sure that the last to die in a two-person couple will do so with dignity, right?

Read on.

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