I talked you into reading Wrangham's Catching Fire. Even more vociferously, I recommend College (Un)Bound. Useful takeaways:
- the market is converging on universally accepted standards and protocols for distance learning and online instruction that will likely reduce the cost of general requirements education substantially.
- the more expensive the sticker price, the likelier everyone's on scholarship. As an example, 57% of Yale students are receiving an average of $37k a year.
- Unless you're a foreigner, in which case you pay full sticker price, which is why there are so many foreign students in US universities - they're underwriting your kid.
- College reports are pure bullshit and brazenly manipulated. A better metric (not the best metric) for determining the quality of education at an institution is to examine the size of its endowment. The more cash they have on hand, the less beholden they are to market forces, like the "build more fitness centers" plague of the '00s that didn't improve academics one iota.
A financial planner would look at a $320k mortgage at what? 4%? and a $350k college education amortizing at 3% if you're lucky and say "pay the goddamn mortgage down." In 18 years your house will likely be worth a factor of two or three more than the college education even at worst-case $350k and a HELOC for half the value kicks the shit out of a house barely paid for and a crapton of student loans.
I know that I looked at 529s and all that jazz and my daughter's allergy money is going into a Coverdell. There's far too much uncertainty about the education landscape 13 years from now and the ROI on 529s has been underwhelming.