Jon, you can do that if you want to... but they will not adjust their financial aid based on what you WANT to pay. There are plenty of kids on the waitlist who will take the spot if you don't pay. I would suggest you not have your kids waste their time on Ivy applications if the net price calculator does not show what you consider to be a reasonable price for them. The NPCs have changed the game somewhat in the past few years. Now you can have a better sense of what the cost is going to be ahead of time. College apps (and the financial aid process) are a LOT of work. I would not waste mine or my kid's time on applications to colleges you know they can't afford to attend. It isn't worth it to say "My kid got into...." if you know you can't pay the bill.

Now... I do have that attitude toward schools that are not as strong, but still don't give merit aid. Franklin & Marshall, for example, might have made a fine safety school for my science oriented D2. But they do not give merit aid. Sorry, a lower ranked school that won't reduce their price for a high stats kid isn't even getting an applications. And (sorry, HK) -- Reed is on that list as well for us. My D was on the high end of their stats and "their kind of kid" in a lot of ways. But they didn't offer enough that we wanted to make it worth paying full freight if their FA was poor (which their calculator indicated it would be). But top colleges can find students who will pay and/or borrow to attend. If you don't want what they are selling at that price, then go find other options.

HK, I do think Berkeley still offers a world class education even with CA's financial issues. I probably wouldn't encourage my kid to go to any other California state system college, but they start from a very high place. Also, in our state the legislature stopped some of the slide in funding this year. They froze tuition in-state for the next two years, and started putting some money back into the university system that had been stripped out during the recession. It may be that more states will do that in the next several years. The slide we have seen as a result of the recession may not be permanent.

The thing about the "next 30 years" is that you are all looking at shorter horizen -- 10 years or so until the OP's first kid hits college. We all thought 10 years ago that it also couldn't go on this way (college couldn't POSSIBLY cost $60K/year by the time our kids attend). Guess what? The trajectory did not change. You have to also assume it will not change for you. Start saving -- a strategy that includes savings, some merit aid (don't aim for the top schools, but go to 2nd tier if this is important to you and your kid doesn't like your state schools), paying some from current income, and making your kids at least own their spending money and book expenses can work (tell 'em now, they can start saving grandparent birthday checks for college -- no kidding, my kids did). And possibly some small loans. If the trajectory does change and it ends up cheaper (or your kid gets that golden ring of a top 3 college acceptance with a cheap price), celebrate with a trip to Maui or some extra into your retirement account.

Jon, just read your previous post. Ivy league admittance won't do a thing for your FA at another college. Now if you have a better FA offer from a comparable or better college, SOME schools will review your FA with that in hand (we did it last year, so I know). But some colleges won't budge (example: Swarthmore) no matter what other offers are on the table. But I think Ivy League acceptance means nothing in the FA negotiations with other schools.

Last edited by intparent; 07/16/13 12:30 PM.