Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Your Son or Daughter or Grandchild Should Go to College

     It's college graduation time, and the website Mashable offers 15 Realistic Quotes that Every Graduate Should Hear. My favorite from this group comes from NPR's Ira Glass: "It takes a while. It's gonna take you a while. It's normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that."

     Some people have recently argued that college is not worth the time or the cost. Kids drink a lot of beer, but they don't learn all that much. Instead of getting a job after they graduate, they move back home with mom and dad. And college tuition is way too high. It burdens people with a ball-and-chain of debt that will drag them down for the rest of their lives.

     Just as an example:  Tuition and fees at Oberlin College, the small liberal arts school in Ohio, amount to $60,404 per year. That's a quarter million dollars for the degree. UCLA, a large state university, is half that price, at least for in-state students. Still, the equivalent tuition and fees are $30,970 for California residents and $53,848 for out-of-state students.

     A lot of that tuition money doesn't even go to teaching. It goes to coaches and administrators. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the president of the University of California system makes over $800,000 a year. The president of Texas A&M makes over $1.6 million a year. And there are 42 presidents of private colleges who take home more than $1 million a year.

     But that's just the start of what you're paying for when you write a tuition check, or take out that loan:  the UCLA football coach makes over $2 million a year. Top coaches at Alabama, Texas and Arkansas all make over $5 million a year!

     Now for the good news. It was brought to my attention by Jeremy Kisner who writes a blog for the financial management firm Surevest, based in Phoenix, AZ. In a post called Is College Worth the Cost? he shows that on average an adult with a bachelor’s degree earns $650,000 more over their lifetime than someone with just a high school degree. I think that number speaks for itself.

     In a follow-up post Kisner cites a 2014 Gallup-Purdue survey called Great Jobs, Great Lives which summarizes many of the benefits -- both financial and non-financial -- of going to college.

     You can go to these posts if you want more developed information and analysis. But what struck me about the survey is first:  It doesn't matter where you go to college (with the exception of for-profit schools which yield more modest results). The benefits are the same whether you go to a state school or a private school, a super-selective school or a run-of-the-mill school, a school in the Northeast or the South or the West. On average, college graduates are not only more likely to be working and earning more money, but they are more engaged with their work and happier at their job.

     The second thing that struck me:  College is not a passive experience. It's not so much where you go as what you do when you get there. Students who find a mentor in college -- a professor who takes a special interest in them -- later on experience greater life satisfaction. Students also realize great benefits from working a summer job or school internship that is related to their field of study. And people who finish college in four years -- who presumably are more intensely involved in the experience -- are later found to be more satisfied with their work and their lives in general.

     The one caveat? Yes, student debt affects people in a negative way. And the more debt a person shoulders, the more negatively it affects them. So the lesson:  there is little or no benefit to going to a more expensive college. Kids should apply to public schools and private schools, and schools all around the country. Then they should attend the school that offers them the best deal, regardless of how well the coaches (or the players) are being paid.

     One other lesson. Of course, students are better off if they can win scholarships. They are also better off if they can get their parents or grandparents to help foot the bill.

     Now I know there's a controversy around the issue of whether or not parents "owe" a college education to their kids. Certainly we Baby Boomers don't owe a college education to our grandchildren. But if we have a little extra money in our IRA, it wouldn't hurt to help them out, would it?


gigihawaii said...

I enjoyed my college and grad school experience because of the education and the friendships I made. So much better than high school.

Anonymous said...

I know I won't be agreed with, but my husband is a 45 year teacher, and education was important to us; so we felt that we "owed" our kids an education in the same way we "owed" them food, clothing and a roof over their heads. Certainly, if they had blown everything in parties every weekend, we would have made some changes. Both children graduated Cum Laude, one from a private school and one from a public school; both have paid for their own Masters Degrees and they both have GOOD jobs! They were engaged from day one in what their futures were going to be. They married people who were also engaged in what they wanted to do. Both households make two to three times a retired teacher's income.

Having said that, if a child wants to apprentice in a good trade, there isn't a thing wrong with that. We will always need plumbers and electricians, etc. It's as much about finding what the student WANTS to do as anything.

Linda Myers said...

My parents put me through college back in the 60s, and we were ready to do the same for our kids at a local school. Some of them made other choices until they were nearly 30, and we're helping them now.

The others are in the trades and good at what they do.

Stephen Hayes said...

When our son went to a four year college we paid for it, and it meant nothing to ur son. A few years later he decided he wanted to go back to college and get a degree in a different subject. His mother and I refused to pay for it so he worked his ass off paying for it himself. ThIS degree now means a lot to him.

Anonymous said...

You cannot make a person learn ;)
After 3 years and her college savings, my daughter joined the Air Force with 30 credits to her transcripts.
Yes, they need college. They need it when they are ready for it.

Anonymous said...

I see that Elizabeth Warren has a new book which begins with her memories of how she overcame great obstacles with the help of student loans, and other assistance in acquiring her education.

Each of my grandchildren is graduated, attending, or going to attend a public college. A couple of them where offered scholarships at pricey northern colleges ( in PA) but even with this assistance, they could not afford these schools.
It isn't just the acquisition of higher education that matters, it's where you go to school. The old boy, now old boy and girl network is alive and well.
The question is what kind of job, what kind of organization will your education help you to archive. Liberal Arts are still taking a beating, while computer science is still the in thing,.
Sadly this means more and more kids are ignorant even after they get a degree. The question is...what is education, not how much is it worth.

Anonymous said...

I tried signing in as anonymous because your sit and other Blogger sites often give me heartburn. When I wrote my name it popped up in the wrong place...really anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Most studies prove that education is the greatest equalizer in society. That being said, hubby and I tried to impress upon our kids the importance of preparing for careers that suited them, yet also paid them a decent wage. We know many families that are supporting the kids who pursued degrees with few job opportunities. I have a friend whose brilliant daughter graduated with a degree in music education. Right now, she's working part-time stocking shelves at a big box store. Personally, I would hesitate to pay for a degree that didn't have strong career potential.

Kirk said...

My mother left her house in trust for her daughter and my daughters, so my two have trust funds that will pay for college and have a good bit left over. Still, my older daughter (will be a junior next year) is working at Target this summer, as she does have a good sense of the value of money. She's a music business major, so it remains to be seen what her career prospects will be with that degree.

For anon with the music education graduate, that can be a hard job to get into. They have to start in middle school normally, and in schools with music programs there's only one teacher per school. With school systems cutting back on music and art, it's a tough market. I will say thar both my daughters were in music all the way through middle and high school, and it has been an enriching experience for both.

Madeline Kasian said...

I am a big believer in focused education.College should be geared towards a career, not a strictly social experiment!

I was not ready for college right out of high school.I returned to school at age 28, after I was married and had a child, took out student loans to become an RN, and got a great job after 2 years of community college.Was not saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans, it was reasonable and led to a real job.

10 years later I became a Nurse Practitioner, a $10,000 investment that paid off well over the following 20 years .

Our parents were unable to pay our college fees so my husband and I put ourselves through! You BET we appreciate our education and did not dilly dally around with degrees that would not pay off int he real world.

Dick Klade said...

I think there are few finer things you can do in life than helping your children (and grandchildren) get all the advanced education they want. With few exceptions, they will profit from college experiences, whether the degrees themselves are marketable or not.

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