A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

March 28, 2013

A College Education: It's Time To Face Reality!

     This topic is a sore subject between my youngest sister and myself.  And we have two distinct opinions on the matter.  The teaching profession has long been a tradition in our family, and Education has been a top priority throughout the generations.  Indeed, as the daughters of a WWII veteran who gained his college degree through the GI Bill, a college education was never in question for me or my siblings.
     Although the cost of college for me was nowhere near the astronomical expense it is today, it was nonetheless a burden upon our family, and each of us five kids struggled to find ways to pay for that all-important diploma.
     As the oldest, I was kind of the test case for finding ways to finance a college education.  At the time, I qualified for a Guaranteed Student Loan from the federal government.  I also worked each summer, saving my meager earnings, and then was employed by the University of Texas during the school year as a Resident Assistant in one of the women's dormitories, where I received free room and board.  The idea was to borrow the least amount of money as possible.  I don't think I will ever forget my $53.45/month payment for 10 years, which paid back my total 4-year expenditure of $6000.  The first payment was due six months after graduation, and it seemed like a huge albatross around my neck!
     But that is nothing compared to the anchor around my sister's first-born.  Like myself, my niece had to borrow money to fund her college education, but her 4-year degree is costing her $80,000!  And to add to that enormous burden, my sister and her husband took out a second mortgage on their home!!  Now, I love my sister and niece, dearly, but for the life of me, I cannot understand how they cannot see the folly of their decisions.  Oh, wait a minute, perhaps I do ....
    In 2008, during the hotly contested Presidential election, my sister was eager to tell me why she was voting for Obama.  "He has promised to help the middle class pay for college tuition; he thinks it is the right of everyone to have a college education."  Now, you need to understand, that we are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to a desire to let the government "help us".  I tried to keep my cool as I asked her, "And just how do you think he plans on paying for that assistance to everyone who wants to go to college?"  Having been educated as a Social Worker, she received a Liberal dose of "social justice" before that term was even invented.  Therefore, I doubt she had even given a thought as to where the government might get such funding.  I calmly and deliberately told her, "He will raise taxes on everyone -- and that includes you as well as me --- and I'm sorry, but it is not my responsibility to pay for your child's education (as much as I adore her)!"
     Well, it is exactly that mentality that now finds 22.7% of borrowers defaulting on their student loans.  Many, like my niece, have been unable to find gainful employment; and like her, are working as teacher's aides for less than 40 hours a week, so employers don't have to offer benefits.  I know she never intended to still be living at home, and dreamed of a high-paying job working for a non-profit organization.  (I know, I know --- that's an oxymoron --- but that's what comes from being raised by a father who is a High School Principal and steeped in the union rhetoric of the Teachers Education Assocation).  Her solution for pushing past the sluggish economy and lack of employment?  She's going to Graduate School!  I have tried to talk to my sister and make her see that this massive pileup of debt is going to come crashing down at some point, but they are still immersed in the old paradigm where a college degree is the ultimate goal.  And a Graduate Degree will surely guarantee that lucrative job, right?
     If they would just consider these few facts, they might see that they are digging a hole they will never climb out of:
•  Education costs are rising with each passing year.  At some point, the return on your investment is not worth it.
•  They have not considered the fiscal repercussions of the debt my niece is accumulating.  Should she be unable to pay back her loans, and finds it necessary to default, she may never recover from the fallout.  For instance, she may never qualify to buy her own home; another American dream that is disappearing.
• Her parents felt they "owed" her a college education, and have now jeopardized their own retirement and financial stability.
• I'm sure they were counting on the Student Loan Forgiveness Act to relieve them of their burden, falling into that mindset that society should pay for everyone to go to college.  But in the end, that burden will be too large for society; the current price tag is $120 Billion in loan debts and climbing higher.
     And that's where the Bubble will most likely pop!  I am amazed that there is still such a large segment of society that is still following the old model.  Whenever anyone will listen, I advocate learning a trade, such as an electrician, plumber or mechanic.  I realize they are not "sexy" professions, but I would be willing to bet that if you have one of these skills, you've got a job!
     Let me be perfectly clear, I am not discounting a college education; I am a huge proponent of learning and gaining knowledge.  But let's be smart, people!  More than ever, it is important to consider what degree you will be investing in and the likelihood of securing employment upon graduation.  I daresay one can no longer afford four years (or five, or six) of trying "to discover yourself".  Times have truly changed, and the future is not as rosy, and certainly not guaranteed.  Now is not the time for attaining pleasure through the gaining of useless knowledge.  Now is the time for a little planning, hard work and looking at alternatives.

Proverbs 2:10-11    When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you


  1. Oh my, this is a sad story.

    Q: Here in the Old Dominion, do you know what they call a kid who does 2 years of community college and then completes a degree at the highly prestigious University of Virginia?
    A: A graduate of the University of Virginia. Only with half the debt. (And if your grades are good in community college, then your acceptance rate at UVA goes from something like 20% as a freshman to nearly 85% as a transferring junior.)

    Student loan debt as it stands today is something that cannot be washed away by bankruptcy. It's forever until paid off. Of course, as you say, if the "loan forgiveness" is approved, then it will likely burst a financial bubble that will almost instantly cause a massive national recession -- too many bonds and bank cash-flows are dependent on those loan payments.

    It's just too bad your sister and her husband didn't save in advance for college tuition. Now they will have to pay for it at the risk of their own security. I can only hope your niece has chosen a degree in some science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) discipline. Otherwise, paying off the debt as a second-generation social worker is going to take a LONG time.
    But the real crux of the problem is the idea that they "OWE" their daughter support through college (and now a post-grad degree!!). Too many folks in America figure somebody owes them something with no work put in up front. Just wait until the increased health care costs from the (Not So) "Affordable Care Act" kick in next year: add those costs to the second mortgage and monthly cash-flow is going to get tight!

    Last, in the category of recommended skills for a young person to learn I would also add HVAC. If you think everybody needs computers at work, wait until the AC goes out in July or the heat goes out in January. Suddenly, that kid who can get the heat exchanger working again becomes really valuable.

    All the best to you and PLW. I am blessed that my #1 Jinni will be heading off to Navy, and #2 Jinni has been accepted to their summer seminar program -- a precursor for the Academy to get an early read on applicants and for kids to get a taste of what is expected -- and he seems excited by it! That leaves all that money we saved for tuition ready for use by #3...and my wife and I don't have to mortgage our futures to launch the young ones into adult life.

    1. Everything you said has been expressed by me to my sister, but it falls on deaf ears because they have bought into the progressive mantra that their liberal professors dished out. And just think, if you are a WOMAN who owns a plumbing or HVAC business, you just about have your future guaranteed! I never felt like my parents owed me my education. I was raised knowing that an education was a privilege worth working for. And I am proud that I paid every cent of my obligation.

      And you are also correct in identifying that Junior College is a smart way to go. Fortunately, my sister's second daughter agreed to go that route, although she has been brainwashed into the Liberal Arts philosophy of getting a degree to "help the poor and downtrodden". It shouldn't take too much to see that science, engineering and math are more marketable skills. Congrats to your Jinnis on their educational paths. You are rightfully proud of their accomplishments and their foresight!

  2. I remember Scott's student loan payment...$88/month for ten years that started right before we got married. It was difficult to pay, but of course we never considered not paying it! That was unheard of.

    Our philosophy about our children's education was that if we could comfortably pay for them to go away to school we would, otherwise they would live at home and go locally. We never felt we 'owed' them anything, but we were totally against our kids going into debt if we could help it. Our oldest daughter had 100% academic scholarship paid by the university for tuition, room and board. She chose to live at home, and was able to bank her room and board money. Smart girl. She is now happily married and a stay-at-home mom, considering home schooling. We paid for our son to go away to Community College...not sure if that investment will ever pay off...lol.

    Then there's our youngest. She has struggled in school since Kindergarten. It has not been an easy road. Luckily, the high school is not pushing her to go to college. We have not been so lucky with our friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. When someone finds out she's a senior and not planning to go to college, she is called a loser, told she will end up on skid-row, and never amount to anything! Unfortunately, this has mainly been in Christian circles. It amazes me how people claim God created us as individuals, but still stand by a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to education and the potential for a person to be successful. This has been extremely hurtful for her, to say the least.

    Now Scott is unemployed, due to the sluggish Florida economy. We normally would've had her at least try Community College, but have to be much more careful with our money...no extra cash around while our child "finds herself"...lol. We are looking into trade schools for her. Not super glamourous, but at least she will leave with an actual SKILL instead of just knowledge...and I don't think four years spent listening to liberal slant is worth much anyway. I've been hearing a new mantra...you must get your master's degree in order to be marketable. More time...more debt...when will it end???

    1. Teri,

      How wise you and Scott have been! And knowing how special and bright Lexi is, it hurts my heart to think that Christians would be willing to label her! She is taking her own unique path, instead of following the masses, and she will be miles ahead of those who try to cram themselves into the cookie-cutter mold of "college graduate".

      I am going to age myself, but I seriously began to question some of the "knowledge" that was being taught by my liberal college professors in the 70s. So you can imagine that another generation or two of that kind of propaganda has churned out teachers and professors that no longer represent my values. I'm not saying they are all like that, but if you are not an engineering, math or science whiz-kid, then I'm not sure about the quality of education that is being offered.

      Higher Education is a serious subject these days, and what we once took for granted as Americans must now be weighed against the quality and the cost of the education. I still believe that America is the land of opportunity if you are willing to work hard and blaze your own trail. Some of the most successful people I know were seekers... they educated themselves and learned from the "school of hard knocks". Your kids are examples of the different ways to traverse the educational minefield, and each will benefit from their own distinctive route.

  3. As an administrator, in the public school system, I have advised my Sr. High School son to go to the local community college. Our years of helping kids in Children's Protective Services didn't leave us with money at the end of the month to put away for college. But even if I did have the money, looking at and researching the economy, I still would suggest going to community college.

    I've had 4-5 great student teachers at my school who have come through my school and have not been able to find teaching jobs. It is sad because when they started college, the economy was a lot better.

    Looking at it from a preparedness standpoint, I would recommend to any high school senior to think about what the future might look like and think about jobs that might be in demand. I recently told a sr. who wants to go pre-med that he should think about alternative medicine. With Obamacare and stuff, I feel this might be a real good alternative to focus on. People are still going to need medical care. It's hard thought because students might not be tied into the economy like their parents might be. They are also surrounded by other seniors who are talking about going away to college and getting their own place, etc...

    Again, as an administrator, I long for the day when education makes a full circle and we start focusing on skills that students can really use.



    1. Oh my, your job must be so difficult in these times of Common Core and C-Scope! But it sounds like your advice to your students is sound and logical. I applaud your continued efforts to raise the level of American education!