Next to your house, probably the biggest expense you will have in your life is paying for a college education for your kids. Therefore, it would only make sense to give it a LOT of thought. However, for most people, the only thought they give to college is HOW they are going to pay for it, not IF they should be paying for it.
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 changing majors, dropping out, or going into a totally unrelated field because they start out not knowing what the heck they want. Admittedly, kids change as they get older, but they could do a lot more aptitude testing and educating 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.
So parents end up mortgaging their homes, using their retirement savings, or going into huge amounts of debt to pay for it. 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. And the problem with that is that it is centering around an 18 year old kid who really doesn't have a clue in the world what direction he or she wants to go in.
Same thing with our oldest son, Ryan. He went through one of those pricey computer trade school programs, loved it, got great marks in it, but then he got frustrated with the lack of placement services at the end. So he decided to go off and get a job as an exterminator with his best friend. He has a much better job now, but it isn't particularly computer-related and after nearly 10 years, a lot of his education, particularly in the fast-paced computer world, is throughly outdated.
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 at a full-time job 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 at the age of 25, he already has 10 years of solid job experience and a few good lessons from the school of hard knocks.
I'm at a tough point, because my youngest is now a High School Junior. So this question is about to get a lot more "real" for me over the next two years. And I honestly don't know what I'm going to do. His grades in High School are just so-so and he has not got a lot of motivation or interest in going to college. I keep trying to convince him that the scholarships and grants mostly go to the kids with the A and B averages, but just like his brother, he doesn't want to hear it.
I don't think we could afford a big-ticket college, but we have enough set aside for a few semesters of Community College if he decides he wants to go in that direction, but after that, he's going to have to get very serious, very fast about getting some scholarships, getting into a fast-track trade school program like his brothers, or doing a half work/half school program and plan on living in our basement for the next four or five years. Oh joy...
If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a subscriber - my posts will be sent directly to your inbox twice a week. Click here to subscribe.
Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/784496