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I have three kids, ages 16, 17 and 18. The 18 year old is starting college this fall. There will be a 2 or 3 year period where all three will be in college. Needless to say, we've known this for some time.

When our oldest was about 12, we started communicating the following:

o Mom and Dad expect you to go to college - we firmly believe in the importance of education.
o Mom and Dad will provide you a college budget, an amount that we will provide.
o This amount will be enough for you to go to an in-state public school (Georgia), including tuition, room and board, and non-discretionary expenses.
o If you want to go out of state or to a private university, that is fine, but *you* have to come up with the cost difference, with some combination of scholarships, loans, and money earned through jobs.
o If through scholarships or other means you spend *less* than your budget, we will write you a check on graduation day for the difference.
o You are responsible for all discretionary expenses (iTunes downloads, eating out, concerts, etc.).
o If you opt not to go to college, you can live in our house for 90 days after your high school graduation free of charge. After that you must either leave on your own, or start to pay us rent and other expenses.

Because of Georgia's lottery-funded Hope scholarship, my kids are eligible for full tuition and fees if they go to a state school, provided they keep a B average. I have set the budget such that if they maintain the scholarship through college, they'll get some money back at graduation. If they lose the scholarship, they will have to come up with some money on their own to pay tuition. This is to keep them motivated to keep their grades up.

My son starts at Georgia Tech this coming Monday, and my middle child is considering Georgia Tech as well - the youngest is more interested in UGA. I have been told by a number of other parents that their kids "are insisting on going out of state" and "how will we afford this?" I truly believe that communicating early and often set an expectation with my children that college is an investment, and that play a key role in that investment.

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