Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My kids and my money go to University

There have been several discussions lately that question the validity of a the need for a college education.  As the price of colleges and universities has hit record highs the question has been asked "is it worth the $90,000 or more" that everything from state to private colleges cost.

For me if your child can go to college, like they actually can do it intellectually (this is not a knock by the way - there are minds that do not think in a structured academic way..but I will get to that), and wants to go then why are we even having this discussion?  I know that in many countries kids can only apply at one college, the one that is very specialized like pre-med or engineering, making it a decision on a career with few alternatives.  There are places where it is forbidden for many to pursue an education.  Some countries place so much emphasis on getting a degree with good grades that it actually leads to suicide in those children who struggle.  Those are all extremes and need to be addressed.  This blog is not about those topics but more on a personal level for the children in my home, the ones that do not have that kind of pressure and forbidden extends to hours of video games they are allowed to play.

My sons easily talk about when they go to college - they have some picked out, though those change with interests.  We are about 7 years away from the decision for my oldest but in today's environment I am told he should be prepping already.  You know because just growing up, teenage years and getting through school and life is not stressful enough?! Add this to the never ending list of things that I as a mother today in my world need to ensure that I do not drop the ball on, while juggling oh yeah everything.

To me for those kids that did not "need" college, let's see the usual suspects mentioned Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, well they did not need it because they were exceptional and beyond whatever those colleges (might I add that 2 of them had gotten into Harvard which already puts them on a different plane than the average person).  They are not the norm, now should one of my sons be in the ilk of the above I will gladly take the college savings I have and help him start an IPO.  There are also the naturally gifted actors who need acting school maybe in lieu of a college and of course the professions like plumbing, etc... where a technical degree is gotten. 

So we are prepping in our own way here.  I love learning, always have, and if I won lotto I would take classes in a variety of subjects because learning without having to get a grade sounds pretty sweet to me.  I have great respect for educators and that is the foundation that I have laid with my boys.  They talk about colleges because it seems as the natural progression in their lives at this point.

Is it worth the investment?  It depends how you define "worth".  If your base it solely on starting salary and hope to recoup that investment of $90,000 or even $40,000 in their job offers, which are not a guarantee at first try anyway, well then you have defined success solely on the numbers on a pay statement.  Is it worth the investment?  If you define it as a place that a child of 18 enters and learns to deal with new people, new environment, makes good as well as salvageable bad decisions on their own and shows an employer that at least they could stick to 4 - 4 1/2 years of "something" then that is worth it.  Is it worth the investment? If they spend those years pretending that they do not have to grow up  - you know the ATM of Mom & Dad funds all withdrawals, no responsibility is really needed and you wander those hallowed halls for 4 or 5 or 7 years "finding" what they want to do -- umm you may want to start putting, like banks do, a limit on those withdrawals because all you are most likely buying time that usually ends in some sort of massive bankruptcy (moral, emotional, happiness, financial etc... ) down the line.

I had a great time in college - got exposure to some new subjects, found out what I did not want to do, added some solid friendships and most of all grew up a bit because 18 and 21 are really very different paths from the child to adultish woman I am.  My journey to full blown adult is always a work in progress.  I found that my psychology degree has been very useful in my ability to navigate the workplace. I had a full scholarship to Hunter College (my "it" school was always Harvard - not sure if I had the brains for it but for sure did not have the bucks for it) so it was sort of "free ride" or at least a ride that mostly depended on me keeping it together, you know while I made salvageable bad choices, and there is a sense of accomplishment in that.

College tuition is outrageous - it should be the attainable first step in the dreams of all those who want it.  I am not saying it needs to be free but the price should not be the expense of denying an opportunity to anyone.  To me there is no education that is not "worth" it because the payback in knowledge and yes even the opportunities that lead to a more successful financial future are in what I want to give my children.  Depending on their choices and the cost I may not have enough, you know that's kind of like retirement money in some ways a moving target (that keeps moving higher), but I will help them with as much as I can.  Only each family can determine what that "worth" is and how much of it they can fund or get help funding. 

We are prepping in our way here - by teaching them to work toward things, by encouraging them to aim for as high as possible and how to deal with disappointments. We are prepping by focusing on how they can be the best at school within their own abilities.  We are looking at what activities could be developed for future applications as they progress.  In this family an education is something that we pursue and treasure as far as we can go. 

I hope my sons will always ask themselves "was it worth it" for all major milestones and decisions, good as well as salvageable bad ones, and know it was if they gained something from the experience, a nice paycheck not excluded.  

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