I understand your thinking, P, but I also think I understand what Joe is saying. [And I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong!] Your son might be motivated by thinking "If I excel academically, I may be able to get some fantastic scholarships and go wherever I want!" I also would say the following: A) He's 14, right? The extent to which you "Want to get a Ph.D." is kind of nebulous at 14. I just don't think you can really understand what that means in terms of commitment and sacrifice until later in life. [Actually, I'm not sure I understood what it meant in terms of commitment and sacrifice until I was about halfway through my program. Seriously.] B) Let's say he hits it out of the ballpark on the SAT or ACT and has a strong GPA. Do you have any idea how much colleges/universities would compete for a talented A-A student with high scores interested in a STEM field? There really could be some sweet deals there. You'll have a better sense of the lay of the land by junior year. C) I like some of the Florida public schools (especially New College), but I like the way you put it above: "strongly consider." YES, debt is a bad thing, but it is also important to find a school that is a good match, academically and socially. I have a young relative who is planning to pick the university that is closest to home, and I don't think it is the best fit for him. He has such an opportunity to expand his horizons, but I don't think he's going to do it. He's a bright kid and his life will turn out fine...but differently than it would have if he had truly explored his options.