I Want to Bankroll My Not-Children’s Futures

On wanting to be the Cool Aunt.

Photo: Pixabay

I am definitely not above trying to buy my nieces’ and nephews’ love over the years. I mean, they’re smart, funny, awesome kids ranging in ages from 3 to 16 — I have to bring something to the table besides pretending to understand how Snapchat works or using my fine motor skills and coordination to pour apple juice into a sippy cup. And not to sound like a Cathy comic strip but I don’t (and likely won’t) have children of my own. I want to help provide for my nieces and nephews, to give them the best start possible in their lives. Or maybe I just don’t want them to have the grim specter of student loan debt hanging over their heads as they go through life.

I want to be the cool aunt who covers her not-kids’ college educations. I was lucky to escape college with a not-soul-crushing amount of student loan debt (made better by a kick-ass interest rate) but many family and friends weren’t. I’ve seen first-hand how that monthly payment for a federal plus loan, or a Stafford loan, or even Random Bank Down the Road’s loan can decimate someone’s paycheck seconds after the direct deposit goes through.

I want to be the one (and yes I’m aware of how self-serving and braggy this is) who can say, “oh, Nephew wants to go to Expensive AF Ivy League? Yeah, I got this.” That is not going to happen in this lifetime. But hypothetically speaking, let’s see what college tuition for six kids would cost in case I ever win the lottery!

My oldest nephew — and the one closest to heading off to adulthood or whatever — has been looking at some East Coast schools. So let’s assume he goes to the University of Pittsburgh for fun’s sake:

In-state tuition for the 2016–2017 school year is approximately $33,960; $45,000 out-of-state. So that’s $34,000. Mulitply that by 4 years and you get $136,000. (I’m assuming tuition will stay the same because I don’t feel like accounting for inflation. And with the current garbage fire that is the U.S. today, who’s to say there will even be colleges to attend in 2–5 years???).

I’ve got five other children-of-my-siblings so let’s keep this going!

A guestimated tuition for Niece 1 at a hypothetical art school: the annual tuition at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is about $36,000 this year. I feel like Niece 1, who’s only just started high school but looooooves her art classes and all thing sketching-related, might want to go to an artsy school but still stay in the area. Also, PAFA was the first one I could think of. For four years of art school, that’d run me $144,000.

Nephew 2 is nine years old so he’d be the next in line for higher education if he wants to do that (it’s okay if he doesn’t!). I think he still wants to be a video game designer. Drexel University apparently has a game design curriculum and his dad went to Drexel. So in about nine years, I’m going to tell Nephew 2 that he’s going to Drexel to make video games whether he wants to or not: $47,051 is Drexel’s current undergrad tuition per year.

So okay, if I ever win the lottery, I might wind up paying $188,400 for Nephew 2 to design the next Mario Smash Brothers.

Nephew 2’s sister (Niece 2) is only seven years old and if you asked her about her aspirations for adulthood, there’s a 50–50 chance she’ll say “a sparkly unicorn!” as her choice of career. She is crazy smart at math though. So fuck it, she’s going to MIT which is like almost $49,000 per year right now — or $196,00 for the whole shebang.

Nephew 3 (brother of Nephew 1 and Niece 1) just started pre-school. I think he wants to be a firefighter for now. The starting salary for a Philadelphia firefighter recruit still in the academy is $40,036 (plus a pay increase when you graduate). Scheduled salary increases max out at $55,603 per year currently.

And finally, we have Nephew 4 (younger sibling of Nephew 2 and Niece 2). About to turn 3. Runs away from me whenever I go over my brother’s house, probably because he thinks his parents are leaving and I’m there to babysit. Hasn’t quite verbalized the whole “what I want to be when I grow up” thing yet but he’s very good at organizing things, cleaning up, and bossing his older siblings around. He’s also really into all things Thomas the Tank Engine right now. And hey, CSX will pay for travel, lodging, and meals at the Railroad Education and Development Institute in Georgia for freight conductors!

At this point in my life, my stretch financial goal is to have my own one-bedroom apartment in a not-super-expensive city and still have enough left over after paying my bills — including student loans. I know all the above is a bigger pipe dream than a Beatles reunion tour. If I’m lucky, I might be able to throw some textbook or food money towards my nephews and nieces every now and then, in between paying off my own undergraduate degree.

But it’s nice to want things sometimes.

Kate Marshall is a writer in the Philadelphia area. Her laptop stand is actually Sir Christopher Lee’s autobiography, Jenny Lawson’s first memoir, and The Nanny Diaries all stacked on each other. Yeah, it is pretty cool.

This story is part of The Billfold’s I Want It Now series.

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