Working your way through school often doesn't work
Chris and Matt may have a point. Those who "go it alone" financially are far more likely to drop out of college. Nearly 6 out of 10 college dropouts reported that they had to pay for school themselves, according to research by Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Of those who completed college, more than 6 in 10 said they had help from parents or other relatives.
The main reason for dropping out wasn't the cost of college, the researchers said. Those who failed to complete school were almost twice as likely to cite problems juggling work and school as their main reason as they were to blame tuition bills.
Students who drop out after trying to use loans to bridge the gap in parental support often end up with the worst of all possible worlds: big debts with no degree to help them dig their way out. Even those who succeed in borrowing their way to a degree can find themselves with intolerably high levels of debt.
Elizabeth Knox of Costa Mesa, Calif., wrote that she wants something better for her daughter.
"Graduating with no debt and student loans has given me opportunities my peers do not have. Buying houses, disposable income, and a different lifestyle," Knox wrote. "I will provide my daughter the same opportunity."
The bottom line
If you weren't prescient enough to pick rich parents or you're a parent who can't help much with college costs, what do you do?
First, don't fall for the nonsense that post-secondary education is somehow less valuable than it used to be. It's true that college graduates have suffered in the current tough economy, but those without college degrees have suffered more, with bigger drops in income and much higher unemployment rates.
Focus instead on getting an education you can afford. Community colleges are a great way to get inexpensive vocational training or a start on a four-year degree. Steer clear of for-profit schools, which have a bad reputation for charging a lot and delivering little.
Most of all, persevere. You have to actually get the degree to get the economic benefit. You can get ahead -- but only if you cross that goal line.
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We are not wealthy parents. I'm a pastor and my wife is a teacher and we both have advanced degrees, meaning education is very important to us. Our two children graduated college debt-free. Our son (the older) had a semester of credits when he graduated HS. He used saved money, received several scholarships, worked in college and graduated Cum Laude. Our daughter skipped her senior year of HS with the HS paying her tuition, books and fees her Freshman year (MN-PSEO program). She also used money she had saved received scholarships and worked PT. She also graduated Cum Laude. Yes, we helped with some expenses as well.
We taught our children ethics, the value of hard work, and the importance of an education. They stayed away from drugs and other bad habits while being respectful of others - regardless of the choices other made. Both are successful, resourceful, and making it on their own today. Yes, I am one proud dad.
My point, however, is that it can be done. My wife and I have also managed to save a fair amount for retirement. I may not be as frugal as Jack Benny (your money or your life) but I am a Scotch Presbyterian with a "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" philosophy about spending. I see too many people who "spend money they don't have to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like" digging a deep hole they will never get out of.
Kids do tend to stay in the economic class they grew up in, except for the rich. They are predominantly self made and come from middle class homes. My personal observation is that the ticket to the middle class is a certain level of intelligence, work ethic, and money management skills.
For those without a trust fund, education is the best ticket out of a life of poverty. However, as more and more college educated students continue to compete for those jobs available in the marketplace, employers are able to select the best grads and pay them less and less.
We see this trend in places like India, where their college educated grads work in call centers because they cannot find jobs in their fields and those that do are not compensated as much as those of the call centers. It is a continuation of globalization of the workforce to continue to cheapen the salaries of workers to fill the coffers of big businesses and the ever growing wealthy.
What was once the jobs of high school drop outs are now the jobs of high school grads and even college grads. The continued demand for higher education has continued to allow increased tuitions and now filled by private enterprise at exorbitant prices simply because someone will pay, or get federal dollars to pay and graduate workers would will not get gainful employment, while enriching those at the top of these degree mills. True capitalism at work.
My parents paid for my college expenses (community college, late 1970's) and my husband's parents couldn't afford anything toward his. He went from high school to the workforce. When our daughter was born (1991), we both agreed that we would pay for all of her college expenses. I wanted to because my parents paid for mine, paying it forward and he wanted to give her the opportunity he never had. So from the time she was born until about age 12, we saved and invested $2000 per year for her. By the time she graduated high school, her college fund grew enough to pay for 4 years at a state college. She did receive some merit based scholarships and now there are some funds left over for graduate school.
Some people tried to warn us about the down side of paying for all of a child's college expenses. In our particular case, nothing bad materialized. She has a 3.95 GPA and has made us very proud. She has thanked us numerous times for the educational gift we've given her. I know she gets it as far as people not appreciating something they didn't work for. She has told me that if she ever has kids, she'd like to pay for their college expenses as well...but "not if they are there just to party".
I was thinking how out of touch with reality this article seems. Aha! No wonder, it's a Liz Weston article.
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