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Where should my daughter go to college?

My daughter got a free ride to a state school. She also got into some much more prestigious schools, but with not-so-great financial aid. I’m nervous about encouraging her to go to the school with the more illustrious reputation if she’s going to be in a lot of debt afterward, but I don’t want to squash her dreams. What should I do?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that if you’re asking about academics, I’m completely unqualified to answer. My collegiate experience consisted of studying just enough to maintain a 3.0 average so I could stay out of trouble with my parents. This freed up the rest of my time, which I divided between hanging out in fraternity basements drinking beer, drinking beer and woo-woo shots in a bar that amounted to little more than a large toilet, and lying on the floor in the smoking room of my sorority, eating tortilla chips and feeling sad because I just woke up and didn’t feel good because I drank too much beer the night before (or that morning). I also vaguely remember dancing a lot to Meatloaf songs and the soundtrack from Grease, sleeping on the couches in the school library, and doing a lot of sorority-related singing, clapping, and weeping.

I know your daughter isn’t an irresponsible flibberdegibbit like I was. I do think, though, there’s no need to spend the money unless she’s going to spend all her time doing her homework, and the difference in earning potential would be so significant with a degree from the “better” school that it would be irresponsible to turn them down. College loans are a complete nightmare in any economic climate; right now she probably won’t find a great job when she graduates no matter where she goes to school. Unless she’s deciding between Yale and Cape Cod Community College, go for the freebie.

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