Admittedly, this is an unorthodox and probably controversial view. But I really question if today’s college programs are worth these ridiculous prices. Why do I say that? Well, for one thing, I think most colleges are not only drastically overpriced, they offer a lot of irrelevant material that isn’t useful in the real world – things like French literature, Philosophy, and Western Civilization. They are interesting and might have some small usefulness, but I would estimate that most kids won’t use half the classes they are taking.
I also think they do a terrible job of helping kids pick their major and stay focused in the right direction. I have known so many kids who waste a lot of time in college. They change majors, drop out, or go into a totally unrelated field. I think if we started them out knowing more about what they want, it’d be better. Admittedly, kids change as they get older, but they could do a lot more to teach kids about realistic expectations in various job fields. I think it would be smart to require short-term internships and job shadowing in 3 to 5 different fields before a student is allowed to select a major.
We need to do a better job of helping kids pick their majors.
Another problem is that parents have tremendous social pressure to put their kids through college. Even if they can’t afford it. It’s the ultimate “keeping up with the Joneses situation. All the kid’s friends around the neighborhood are touring colleges and visiting financial aid offices. It’s embarrassing to admit that you just don’t have the cash to take that path. Especially if you have more than one kid.
So parents end up mortgaging their homes, using their retirement savings, or going into huge amounts of debt to pay for college. Or the kid takes on a huge burden of student loan debt without any clue of what a serious handicap that is going to be once they get out of school and trying to start their adult life. Most 18-year-old kids just aren’t mature enough to make those decisions.
And on the other hand, I see people all around me who have done quite well in the world without having that all-important college degree. I don’t have any degree. But, I’ve had a great career and never really had a problem with it. I mean, I went to school in 1985 – what the heck would that have helped?
Lots of people do just fine without that all-important college degree. Like me.
Same thing for my mother, sister, my nieces & nephews, and both of my older sons. Yet they all have great jobs, pretty nice houses. They aren’t rich, but they’re getting by OK. And they have none of those huge debts for a college education.
Could they earn more if they had a diploma? Possibly, but hard work and solid job experience are nothing to sneeze at. And don’t forget how many kids do graduate with a degree – even an advanced degree, and still end up working at Starbucks or Target.
I have some friends who have kids in college who are in their early 20’s. They never made them work a job because they were so worried about keeping their grades up for college. So, these kids have never actually worked ever in their lives. I keep wondering what is going to happen if they get out of college with that shiny new diploma and discover that they have no work ethic or ability to put up with a bullshit that is frequently a big part of life in the big city. My son may not have a college degree in his back pocket. But by 25, he has 10 years of solid job experience and a few good lessons from the school of hard knocks.
What if your kids have a degree, but no work ethic or stamina in the job market? Those two don’t go hand in hand.
College IS the golden key, but there’s also a silver key, a brass key, and an aluminum key.
Another thing to think about before you sign for those student loans. There are college loans and all sorts of other loans, but there is no such thing as a retirement loan. We all want to give everything we can to our kids, but you have to put that retirement first. Or your brilliantly educated kids could end up with broke parents living in their basement. Now, THAT’S a scary thought!
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