After having made the second post on this thread 3 years ago, I thought I'd come back and post where we are with our daughter. Joe, condolences for what seems to be a major spam attack here - it really stinks with what idiots will do to try to make a buck...as if anyone here actually reads their posts?
Anyhow, as other old-timers here may remember, we were diligent savers in the MA U.Plan prepaid program as well as the MA U.Fund 529 (entirely through 2% credit card rebate only for the past ~12 years).
Our daughter since the age of 2 has had her sights on becoming a ballerina. I have to hand it to her - she works hard and because of that, we've supported and encouraged her. To facilitate and accommodate her dance schedule, we've home schooled for the past 6 years. PreK-3 though 6th grade she attended a very good local private school.
As daughter's ballet aspirations continued to grow, we knew this was not simply a fad or hobby for her. A couple years ago, we all sat down and agreed that she could continue with the ballet and go as far as it takes her, so long as she always made progress with her schooling. We decided she'd live at home as much as possible and keep costs down (professional ballet training is not cheap).
When considering colleges/options/alternatives at some point we began investigating online/distance options. As we learned more and understood what was available, along with evaluating our own life experiences and the state of the economy and educational system, we decided that we would go the alternative route as it would provide the flexibility in scheduling that would allow daughter to pursue her ballet endeavors and continually pursue the college degree, finishing it eventually.
After extensive/exhaustive research and analysis, discussions and visits with administrators we settled on Harvard's Extension School program. To our surprise, Harvard actually has one of the oldest online/distance offerings available. The program is extremely flexible where you can take one or more classes a semester, skip a semester (or multiple semesters), and there are no time requirements for how quickly the degree needs to be completed. At the end of it, you get a Harvard degree. All of the aspects of the program sat well with us and fits extremely well with our daughter's future plans. Some of the other highlights:
- courses are priced at about $1200 each for 4 credits
- normal ~128 credit graduation requirement
- on-campus requirement for just 4 courses
- no SAT/testing requirement for admission - just enroll in and complete 3 required courses with a B average and you're admitted
- most of the courses are the same courses you'd get in the class room at Harvard, and probably 50% of them are taught by Harvard professors. With the distance learning aspect and the online collaboration software they're using, the professors and students can physically be anywhere in the world. This actually made one of daughter's group assignments interesting as her group had to coordinate meetings between three or four different international timezones.
So, here's the mechanism to receive a Harvard education/degree for maybe $40,000 plus the cost of being on-campus for the 4 required courses (can all be done in one semester if you choose or spread out - we're thinking a summer or two in Cambridge might be nice). What's also nice is that with a normal college program you'd be paying for a flat rate tuition by semester, probably upwards of $60,000 a year for Harvard. Here we're paying as we go the $1200 per class.
For anyone interested, here's an article from the NY Times a few years back:
While finishing her high school/home school requirements, she's been taking one Harvard course per semester for the past year and a half. There's one required class she still needs for official admission, it just hasn't been offered at a convenient time - so hopefully next fall. But in the interim, she's still taking one a semester.
As far as our college savings goes:
1. We're drawing money from the U.Fund 529 for the one course each semester. After registering each semester, I simply withdraw from the U.Fund and at the end of the year Harvard sends the 1099-T which matches up with the Fidelity 1099-Q and they each go on to our federal income tax filing netting each other out.
The money from the U.Fund will completely cover the costs of the Harvard courses for the entire program.
We're likely going to just withdraw all the cash from the U.Plan and not get any of the pre-paid benefit as Harvard and the Extension school is not a participant. We will receive a 2% per year gain on the funds which will be taxable, but it's still a lot of money coming back to us. She could go to any school in the plan completely tuition free. However, having that pot of cash (we're giving it all to daughter) will pretty much set her up for many years to come no matter what her ultimate career aspirations or how she eventually gets there.