How am I going to pay for this?

—with apologies to Douglas Adams—

My daughter has a problem, which is this: she needs a college education. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these are largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it isn’t the small green pieces of paper that are uneducated.

This is not her story. But it is the story of her problem and some of its consequences.


It is also the story of a budget… Not just any budget, but my family’s budget. A budget that finds itself in that same beautiful goldilocks-zone as other similar middle class budgets: too large to receive a substantial amount of college aid and yet small enough to not have a substantial amount of small green pieces of paper in it. Which leads me to the question: How am I going to pay for tuition, student housing, and, well,… everything?

I spent a while considering the question, in deep thought. The ultimate answer is:

“120,000 small green pieces of paper”

I checked it very thoroughly and that quite definitely is the answer. Well, yes, we already knew the answer — it’s just a number, really. It’s not like I can take this information on the talk-show circuit.

The answer in itself isn’t very helpful. While I could simply print out 120,000 small green pieces of paper, the authorities take a dim view of that. So, we would need to borrow 120,000 small green pieces of paper from an organization that deals in moving large sums of little green pieces of paper and send them to an organization that promises to exchange those little green pieces of paper for knowledge…
so that my daughter can get a good education…
so that she can get a good job…
so that she can gather up 120,000 small green pieces of paper over the next ten to twenty years and send them back to the original organization that deals in large sums of little green pieces of paper…
plus interest.

OK — don’t panic! 120,000 small green pieces of paper is an astoundingly large sum — I’m sure I don’t have to tell you — but it’s not a vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly large sum. We can break it down into dollars and cents to help it feel more manageable. $30,000 a year? Still too large of a transaction to wrap my mind around — that’s like buying a new car every year. $2,500 a month? Not yet small enough — that’s a monthly mortgage payment for a very nice house. $576 a week? That’s more relatable — I can comprehend that. It’s a little less than a month’s food budget — all we need to do is stop eating. It’s $15 per hour (in 40 hours a week) — just over twice the current U.S. minimum wage.

An average of $500/week (more or less) is not an unachievable amount for three adults to earn part-time in their off hours. Granted, I wouldn’t earn it by giving up my daily grande mocha frappuccino, but it’s not insurmountable.

Having some vague idea of a goal: I consulted a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself forms part of its operational matrix — often referred to as the Internet — with one all-encompassing question: How am I going to pay for this?

Google results: “how am i going to pay for this”

  1. How am I Going to Pay for a College Education?
  2. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for college.
  3. 5 Teens, 5 Plans: How I’m Going to Pay For College
  4. Ten Ways to Pay for College Without Going Into Debt
  5. Seven Strategies For Paying For College In Tough Times
  6. How am I going to pay for it?
  7. How to Pay for College When Parents Can’t Help

Searches related to how am i going to pay for this

  • can’t afford college even with financial aid
  • scholarships
  • fafsa

I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that we’ve never actually known what the question is. The question isn’t just “How am I going to pay for this?” because the government makes it very possible to pay for a college education through loans called “financial aid” (very much like Colt Single Action Army revolvers are called “peacemakers”). No, the real question is: What am I going to do to get those 120,000 small green pieces of paper so that my family isn’t hindered with massive monthly repayments for the rest of their natural lives?

The ultimate answer, and the point of this journal, is: anything and everything*.

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