Youth Culture Window

Contemplating College

Dynamic ImageAcceptance letters have been received. Yearbooks have been signed. Tasseled caps have been tossed into the air. The next season of life for millions of teenagers has finally come.

And along with it, lots of really big questions for their families.

Right now, millions of teens are preparing to attend college…somewhere. They’re pondering which university to attend, where they will live, what they should pack, and much more. Parents are pondering a separate set of questions: Are they ready to leave home? Can they handle the work load? And of course…how can we pay for it?

Right now, the average tuition costs at a four-year university hover somewhere around $9,000 per year (for two semesters). However, that number swells to almost $20,000 per year when additional costs like room and board, books, and various fees are factored into the price. It’s no wonder parents’ jaws drop when they stare an $80K bill in the face for their kids’ college degrees.

There’s an answer to the money question…but it’s not a good one.

Collegiate Prostitution?
As college costs have steadily rose, “unorthodox” strategies of paying for them have emerged, the latest being Seeking Arrangement. This is an online resource that connects (primarily) female students with older men known as “sugar daddies” who will pay for the girls’ college-related expenses…in exchange for “companionship.” (Of course, “sugar mommas” are welcome to introduce themselves to young men, too.)

Currently, the websites boasts more than 5 million members worldwide, though many of them are right here in the US. This ancient way of paying for college leaves the students unsaddled with debt… although they are also graduating without integrity.

But maybe a legitimate question to ask before contemplating the costs of college is, “Is college right for my kids?”

“We Don’t Need No Education”
Let me say at the outset I’m a huge fan of higher education. I personally believe individuals should acquire all they can, and given the technological age in which we live, it’s never been easier to do so. Consequently, I’ve earned two different undergrad degrees and one advanced degree. And yet, my younger brother who barely escaped high school makes far more money than me each year. Granted, it’s not always about the money, but it’s because of unexpected inequalities like this that the “payoff” of college is being called into question by parents more and more frequently.

It also doesn’t help the pro-college argument that a recent survey found only 40% of university graduates believe their collegiate work/study has prepared them for a career. These were the results of a joint effort by McGraw-Hill and Hanover Research in an online survey of 1,360 college students across March and April of 2016. (Not surprisingly, the numbers were found to be even lower when calculating in the thoughts of underclassmen.)

In response to these issues, and others related to them, Dr. Tim Elmore offers a timely article that tries to debunk four of the most common myths associated with college. Regardless if you agree with his points, he raises several questions that families would be wise to consider before embarking on this journey.

Planning for the Future
On that note, I suggest parents and kids start having discussions about college very early in their family’s life. Maybe you’ve already made financial preparations – if so, good! If not, it’s best to develop a game plan and begin implementing it now so you’ll have options when the time comes. For instance, research any and all scholarships that are potentially available. Also, investigate prepaid tuition plans accessible in your state. But payment is still only one piece of the pie.

There are plenty of other questions that require answers like, “What degree/major is desired?” “Which schools offer the best value on that particular education?” “Does my kid possess the maturity, skills, and disciplines to succeed – and if not, what can be done to change that?” Spending lots of quality time discussing these questions as a family will help you build an agreed-upon strategy that will serve your teenager down the road.

College isn’t just about “the next four years” of life. It might well be a foundation for the rest of their lives. Do all you can to help make sure they do it right.

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David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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