Paying For Son’s College Weighs On Serious Seattle-Area Savers

By George Erb
The Seattle Times.

KENMORE, Wash.

Jennifer Ferdinand and Todd Parker have steady jobs, pensions and retirement accounts. They keep their spending in check and expect to pay off their home mortgage after 15 years.

In short, the Seattle-area couple are well-positioned for the future, with a notable exception: paying for their son’s college education.

Jonah, who turns 7 this month, could enroll as a college freshman as soon as 2027, or 12 years from now.

His parents are committed to paying for his college, yet they had not set aside any money to do so.

Ferdinand, 42, and Parker, 46, were stopped by several things. They found the complexities of college-savings plans daunting.

For a while, the couple thought they could cover the cost with their household cash flow. Then their own retirement savings seemed threatened by dramatic increases in the cost of a four-year college degree.

Tuition and fees at Washington state’s public-research universities jumped an average 9.5 percent a year for the 10 years ending in 2014, according to the state Guaranteed Education Tuition program, or GET.

At the University of Washington, a state-resident freshman could expect to pay $27,112 to attend the Seattle campus during the current academic year, UW estimates. That includes tuition, fees, room and board, as well as such things as books, supplies and personal expenses.

Inflation and tuition increases keep driving the cost higher. By the time Jonah graduates from high school, the expense of earning a four-year degree at UW’s Seattle campus could exceed $200,000.

“That’s just crazy,” said Ferdinand, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She called the estimate “sobering.”

To find out how to finance their retirement and their son’s education, the couple turned to the Puget Sound Chapter of the Financial Planning Association. It referred them to Ted White, a financial planner with Goddard Financial Planning in Seattle.

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