Growing up, I never considered not going to college. A college education seemed like a natural progression, my parents had degrees and had done well. It was what I knew. I was lucky to grow up at a time when college was affordable, in a household where my mother and father valued higher learning but weren’t all that impressed with ivy league names. In those days, a bachelor’s degree from a solid school was a fairly reliable assurance of future career success. That’s not true anymore, my children are facing a different world.
College isn’t affordable anymore. A bachelor’s degree isn’t a guarantee of success. And yet I know people who would give anything, do anything to attain this edge for their children. I know talented students who are kept down because of the cost of higher learning. That’s why we are at the mercy of the colleges and the student loan system — why colleges will likely keep charging whatever they want, why government will continue to make over the top loans to finance that education. Parents (all parents want better for their children.
This desire is one of the most basic, most persistent in a parent’s heart — to see your child go one step (or more) further than you did. To want better for them. For their road to be easier than your own. For them to have things you lacked. To know they are a success, self-sufficient and well settled. It’s this most natural desire that drives us to take on insane amounts of debt, scramble after scholarships or fall victim to the lure of athletic “full boats”.
This makes me sound so old, but in my day, you never heard stories of college grads working minimum wage jobs. Today 53% of college grads are unemployed or under employed, an uncomfortably common theme. How maddening for the student to have put all that time and effort and not be able to get a professional job. How frustrating for the parents who believed and sacrificed (sweated blood) for that education. Stories like these make any parent wonder (worry) that spending all that money (taking on all that debt) in order to educate your children is really worth it, is even possible anymore.
Tuitions at all colleges have risen by obscene amounts, (1,225% in 36 years) pouting the college education of my generation financially out of reach for most working families these days. Even the “well off” are struggling to pay college costs. Obligingly the government offers loans, tthough you’d best be aware that getting a huge loan is easy, paying if off is a long, hard process.
Colleges are getting rich, those making student loans are getting rich — but the average student from a two parent home with good grades and no ethnic affinity gets screwed. Talented kids can’t afford higher education, or they graduate with a mountain of debt so high they cannot possibly pay it down — even a good salary can’t cover that kind of debt and the normal expenses of daily living. So 85% of today’s college graduates move back home.
As disappointing as it is to admit, college may not be the path to success for the next generations. Today families need to think long and hard about the decision, the major (no Gender Studies or Art History) and the school (useful education vs. bragging rights). This is one of those times that your children need you most of all — your guidance, encouragement, support of whatever decision they make is just as important as it once was to strap them into those car seats.
The reason is so simple… and why colleges will likely keep charging whatever they want, why government will continue to make loans to finance that education. Parents (all parents) want better for their children. This desire is one of the most basic, most persistent in a parent’s heart — to see your child go one step (or more) further than you did. For their road to be easier than your own. For them to have things you lacked. To know they are a success, self-sufficient and well settled. It’s this most natural desire that drives us, that has us taking on insane amounts of debt, scrambling after scholarships or being lured by athletic recruiting.
We all just want our kids to be okay. Unfortunately greedily people know we want that and are making millions as they give it to us.