March 16, 2019 — While reading about the college scandal involving payments by dozens of wealthy parents to William Rick Singer to assure their children’s acceptance into the upper echelons of higher education, I had to shake my head once again at the need to overhaul our college educational system and its dependency on rising tuition and high profiles.
As parents, my wife and I have been very honest with kids about the level of financial support they can expect from us for college. To do this, I used my annual donation to our local public broadcasting station as an example.
“You know how they have different levels of supporters? And how the more money you contribute, the nicer the gift they send you as a show of their appreciation for your support — like a T-shirt or really nice backpack, or if you’re a gold-level member an entire season of your favorite PBS show in a special limited-edition boxed set on Blu-Ray?”
Our kids nodded.
“As a gift, we received a refrigerator magnet for a show that was canceled three years ago.”
Blank stares from our kids.
I explained that the only free-ride scholarship we could provide will have already been spent on food and their unlimited texting and data plans.
My wife and I have attended very helpful scholarship fairs where local community organizations provided information about the many scholarships available. In addition, we’ve attended workshops discussing everything from how to apply for federal education grants, to tips on interviewing and properly filling out scholarship applications.
What we discovered about the scholarship application process is that there IS a lot of money out there, available from local organizations and clubs as well as county, state and federal funds specifically earmarked for college education.
It’s essentially our tax dollars at work. And since I’ve been paying taxes nonstop since I was 17, I have no problem getting a return on my investment to help our kids and others receive a college education.
Here’s the problem: After much consideration and analysis, including a mathematical formula involving median income combined with cost projections, annual inflation predictions and an old abacus I found at a garage sale, I was able to determine what I believe is the biggest financial challenge facing students and their families when it comes to continuing their education beyond high school:
Colleges cost too much.
In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say colleges are being run by pharmaceutical companies — which would make sense since, coincidentally, most of the side effects found on drug labels are the same symptoms I felt while researching annual tuition costs: headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, vision loss, vomiting, loss of appetite…
According to the American College Board, the average annual cost of tuition at a private college is $32,405. Or if you’re looking for a real bargain, $23,893 a year to attend a public college from out of state.
However, your best bet is to enroll in a community college as an in-state resident, where the average tuition is $9,410.
Which, by the way, is still $9,310 more than we’ll have saved up for our youngest daughter’s college fund.
I should probably point out that I did not attend college and never aquired a degree. That said, it’s not that I’m advocating against receiving a college education. I’m just saying that ultimately, with or without a degree, what matters most is a drive to succeed and willingness to work hard for it.
No degree can guarantee success over an individual’s desire to be successful.
Do I want my doctor to have a medical degree?
Should a lawyer be required to have a law degree?
Would I be ok with a doctor without a medical degree operating on the average lawyer?
The question is whether the rising cost of higher education — coupled with the revelation that those wealthy enough to do so can buy their child’s way into a prestigious college through acts of fraud — are devaluing those degrees and our system of higher education as a whole?
Especially when compared to what can be achieved with a high degree of dedication and hard work instead — And the freedom to pursue your life’s passions debt free.