Ask Amy: College choices bring on ABCs of debt

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • April 23, 2014 - 12:56 PM

Dear Amy: Like many fortunate high school seniors, our daughter has a few more weeks to choose which college she’ll attend.

College A has offered her a full scholarship for four years, and College B is an excellent, yet expensive school. Both are good academic choices, with B being a better all-around fit for our daughter.

We can manage the cost of B, but it will take school loans (with parents co-signing) and watching expenses very closely.

My husband and I are in our early 60s, so we also are trying to save for retirement.

My parents paid for my education, but my only choice was an in-state, affordable school.

I don’t want my daughter to be saddled with debt, but I also want her to go to a school that she wants to attend. If we insist on the cost-free school, will she resent that?

Amy says: Your daughter should go to the best school she can afford. Taking on some debt for this could be a good long-term investment for her to make, but she must not mortgage her future.

If she chooses the more expensive school, she should first pursue every possible grant and scholarship.

She should choose federally backed loans, borrow the minimum and avoid the lure of private loans. There is a lot of information (including a repayment calculator) at the helpful site:

She also should work — over the summer and during school.

I took on debt for my college education roughly equivalent to the average $30,000 students are taking now, but the experience opened many doors and made my career possible. Graduating with debt forced me as a young graduate to plunge into the workforce to make payments. Grad school was out, and so was contemplating the color of my parachute from my childhood bedroom. It took 10 years to pay back this debt, and with every payment I was still aware of the valuable opportunity it represented.

Rude wakeup call

Dear Amy: I have a problem with my fiancé’s sleep habits. He insists on “snoozing” his alarm clock, waking me up every time. This can last for 30-40 minutes before he finally gets up, mere seconds before my own alarm goes off!

I’ve asked him repeatedly to set his alarm for when he actually needs to wake up.

When I need to wake up first, I only let my alarm ring the minimum, so that I can cause the least disturbance and get out of the bedroom as quickly as I can. Repeatedly waking up your bed partner is really inconsiderate, and his flat-out refusal to try to accommodate this is rude.

We have been together for nine years, but this snoozing problem only started in the past year or so.

Can you please enlighten us on bedroom etiquette?

Amy says: Your solution seems obvious. First, your guy should do everything possible to get a better night’s sleep. If he doesn’t actually have to get up until just before you do, then he should simply give himself more sleep time and set his alarm for the actual time he needs to rise. Perhaps you would shave a few minutes off of yours so you can rise together.

Otherwise I agree with you: The person who needs to get up first should make an effort to let the other sleep.

Wine spill retort

Dear Amy: The letter from the man whose wife spilled wine at a party reminds me of one of my favorite jokes.

Red wine is spilled, and responses depend on whether it’s a Canadian, American or Frenchman who spilled it.

The Canadian apologizes profusely. The American says, “Send me the bill!” The Frenchman says, “What a ridiculous color for a couch!”

So, if Wine Guy had called upon his inner Frenchman, he might have protected his wife from that passive-aggressive host.

Amy says: I know my readers in Canada are going to love this. Thank you.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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