Tuesday, June 2

Cutting Down on the Cost of College (College Prep)

We began homeschooling because we felt that we could give our kids a better, more individualized, education than the public schools.  Our end goal was graduation from a college with a good job lined up.  After years of homeschooling, this outcome would also provide validation to all those original naysayers...

Look for more in-depth discussion of this topic and more in Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success! This book & worktext set will help you and your high school student breeze through the steps of college and scholarship applications, as well as brushing up on study habits and life skills. The worktext includes activities, worksheets, and planning pages, and accompanies the book.

What I really want for my children is an adjustment into adulthood that allows them to be responsible and happy.  We work on life skills regularly, through our actual daily living.  Filling out paperwork at the doctor, creating a grocery list with the circular, paying bills, making repairs around the house...all of these are teachable moments that help our children to become more prepared for adulthood.  Do they really need the transitional phase of college?

Note - 'College' in this particular article is specified as a traditional, four-year university.

College has Changed....NOT for the Better

For the last few generations, the collegiate years have been a crucial part of the growing up experience.  Do I want my child to miss out on having a roommate, suite life, meeting peers, potentially meeting a spouse, and having that limbo-phase before full adulthood?  Even the partying comes with its own learning opportunities.

The system has changed, however, since my generation attended college, and it's failing.  Inflated costs have driven up student debt so high that many cannot fathom how to escape it upon graduation, even with a good job lined up.  Scholarships, dual enrollment, and credit by exams help to offset the costs, but with an increased rate of nearly 60% over the past ten years, college is simply no longer affordable to many.

Also, because so many students are still being funneled into colleges, even with the prospect of crippling debt, there are too many graduates for the available jobs.  Students are either going on to graduate school, in the hopes of getting a job in their chosen field, or taking whatever job they can find.  Simply put - there are too many professionals being graduated, and not enough professional jobs.  

Graduating with four to six years of college debt, and winding up in a low-paying job that didn't require a college degree, meanwhile trying to pay off loans...that's not how I want my children to start off their adult lives!

Points to Ponder
  • Why does your child want to go to college?  (Or why do you want him to go?)
    • If the first things that come to mind are: everyone else is doing it, my parents did it, it's just what you do, or I don't know, then maybe you should step back and really evaluate the next few questions.
  • Is your child planning to go into a specialized field that requires higher education, such as medicine, law, or STEM?
    • If the career plan is to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, a four year degree (and usually more) is definitely required.  Start looking into scholarships!
  • If not, will the college experience be worth the cost?
    • Consider the type of college, the college itself, and the intended degree.  Do any (or all) of these carry at least some prestige?  
    • Will the chosen degree lead to a job in a higher-paying field than without college?
    • Are there alumni benefits (such as networking and career placement) at the intended college?  What are the beneficial intangibles?
What Else to Try?
The easiest path is to transition from high school directly into college, but that's not necessarily the most rewarding.  Do any of these ideas appeal to your child?  Would any of them serve as a jumping off point to a more fulfilling future?
  • Community College
    • Students can take a two-year course of study, resulting in an Associate's Degree or a career certification.  
    • There is the option to move forward to a four-year college after finishing these two years.  Going this route will shave quite a bit off tuition as the first two years will have been completed at a very reduced rate (compared to traditional college).
  • Vocational School
    • Earning a certificate for specialized trades can open doors to well-paying, steady jobs.  Internships and on the job training are often part of this coursework.
    • Welding, electrician, automotive repair, and refrigeration are all examples of vocational school certificates.
  • Military
    • Would you like your child to jump into a career that offers free health care, a competitive salary, free room and board (sometimes), and will cover tuition should s/he decide to attend college later?
    • The military can be a good option for many students to obtain free education while committing to serve and protect their country.  Full retirement at only twenty years is also an option, allowing them to begin a whole second career later in life, should they choose!
  • On-the-Job Training
    • Going straight to work isn't necessarily a one-way ticket to low income life.  There are many jobs that don't require a four year degree (just ask Mike Rowe!) but still pay well.  These jobs often require some on the job training.
  • Volunteering / Gap Year
    • I'm not a huge fan of the gap year, honestly.  'Finding yourself' on mom and dad's dime?  Nope.  But if it's spent volunteering, it can come with some great rewards, including learning hands-on skills and gaining group leadership and teamwork experience.
    • Volunteering can also open doors to opportunities you didn't even know existed and introduce you to career paths that were not of interest before.

Through the Door also includes:

  • Eleven Tips for Scoring Scholarships
  • Beware these Scholarship Scams!
  • and a Guide to Dual Enrollment.

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