I have a college degree. I have been involved in education as a teacher and instructor for over 40 years. I have worked with both high school and college students. I love what I do. However, in recent years, I have examined the true financial value of a college education. The following are some of my general observations, a look at the indebtedness that one develops and alternatives.
Many high school students, along with their parents, start planning for college early in life. This is because of the expense involved in a college education. The more money your family has, the more of a burden it can be. Why is this you ask? When you apply for college, you have to fill out financial forms. The more assets you have, the less aid you can qualify for. This means borrowing money for your education.
Yes there are scholarships of all types available. The competition for them is tougher than ever. The cost of education has went up, while the amount of scholarships has declined. Don’t get me wrong. Every dollar helps. There are loans to apply for and they seem to be easier to get. However, is it worth beginning your career in debt between $100,000 and $300,000? That is what is happening to many students.
Students, that borrow this much money for their education, need to know several things. First, is the profession they are going into going to pay off? 2. Will you be able to put your degree to use or will you be stuck with just a paper degree? 3. Can you excel in your discipline area? You need to pass, preferably with high grades. I can’t envision someone being thousands of dollars in debt without a useful degree. Still, it happens a lot.
Many parents borrow from their 401K plans to help their children out. This is not too wise. You never want to jeopardize what you will need to survive in the future. This brings up a question for parents. How much are you ready to sacrifice for your child’s education? Do you want to add more indebtedness to what you already have? Is it best to let your child endure this on their own? After all, it is their life and career not yours. I can’t tell you what to do as a parent. This has to be a family decision. I split the cost with both of my sons. It has put me in the hole a bit. But, I would do it again.
Why has the cost of a college education went up? There are many answers to this question. Salaries, services, energy, supplies, insurances and everything else has driven up the cost of education. For schools to compete with each other at high levels, more money is necessary. Schools receive a rating. To maintain or exceed that rating, money is necessary.
Is there a major difference in the schools that a student attends? Look at it this way. If you have two candidates and everything is equal, do you hire the student from MIT or Valley State College. The name on a degree carries much weight.
There are some ways to get through college and reduce indebtedness.
1. Know what you really need for your profession. You might get through the first two years at a Junior College. Then finish up at a four year school.
2. Get someone to finance your education. There are major corporations that will pay for some or all of your education, if you work for them. You just have to do your homework and locate these places. It helps to know someone in these places.
3. Use Uncle Sam. The military has the GI plan for a military commitment.
4. Offer something the college needs, but doesn’t have. I knew a girl that worked as a nurse’s aid in a university hospital. She worked for minimum wage and got most of her education paid for by the college itself. The trick is to know what they need. This is why it is so important to be a diverse student, that can offer a school many things.
5. Find a novel way to pay for your education. Before the housing market crashed, families would by properties and hold them for four to five years and then resell them at a higher value. They would use this extra money to pay off their college debts. One father even used a college house as a rental property. He would use the rent to make payments on his daughters loans.
In summation, I would still endorse a college education. However, I would do it with reservations. My father would always tell me to follow my heart. My grandmother would say, “Don’t listen to him. Follow your mind.” What she meant was, don’t do stupid things. Make sure you are sure.