Paying for College

Paying for College: Where Do Parents Come In?

I recall the sacrifices my parents made for me so that I could to go to college. Times were tough for my father back in the mid-Sixties. Our family was the classical nuclear, Leave It to Beaver-type. My mother was a full-time homemaker and my Dad was the 100% breadwinner. Like many men from my working-class community, he came out of WWII and went to work directly for the railroad, which was pretty much the reason my hometown grew over the decades. He worked his way up through the ranks and had a number of technical and professional accomplishments to his credit. He went from machinist, to master mechanic, to supervisor of work crews.

Speaking of sacrifices, his rise through the ranks earned him a significant promotion opportunity when I was a sophomore in high school. However, the catch was that our family would have had to relocate and move to another part of the state. Although I was never directly aware of why my Dad turned down this promotion, looking back, I now realize it was because my parents chose not to pull me out of high school and disrupt my education. This was a big sacrifice for my parents because it meant that my Dad turned down a nice increase in pay but he also had to (what the railroaders called) “bump back” to maintain local railroad employment. In other words, he had to take a lesser responsible, lower-paying job in order to stay in our town.

That had to hurt. My Dad and grandfather had just competed building a new home for my mother and me and money was tight. With a mortgage and his now lower-paying job, the squeeze was on. I was only vaguely aware of the pressures my parents experienced, once the realities of their decision to stay put sank in. I’m sure that things got much more difficult than I ever knew because my folks didn’t want to burden me with the stresses they had on their plate. This is what parents do many times. They shield their children from the downsides of adult and family life. Granted, some parents let it all hang out and the children share the brunt of difficulties. That’s unfortunate, but I was spared.

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