For generations Americans have seen college as an investment to a better future. The whole family would scrape together the funds and make huge sacrifices to send a smart, hardworking son. He, in turn, would earn higher wages, help the younger siblings, and pull the rest of the family into a different socio-economic level. Back then, every college was an academic experience with meaningful classes, excellent training, and substantial majors that led to good jobs.
In time, people began to see college as the only acceptable next step out of high school. Because so many underqualified kids saw college as the only option, schools began changing their offerings to include classes usually taught at tech schools. They started including worthless classes and frivolous majors so they would appeal to a wider range of students. Students suddenly found that graduation time found them without gainful employment. The job market got flooded with PhDs. The economy slowed and crashed on multiple occasions.
Is college still a good investment? Well, it depends. And, I think there are better questions to ask.
What will be the ROI (return on investment) if we spend the money on a college education?
If you have a responsible, hardworking student who majors in an area with good job prospects and he/she doesn’t accumulate more debt than their first year’s expected salary, you have a positive ROI. You are making a big investment that will pay much bigger dividends over your child’s lifetime. This is absolutely worth your time and a great deal of sacrifice.
If your student struggles academically, majors in something fluffy with limited or no job prospects, doesn’t develop marketable skills, accumulates a load of debt with no way to pay it back, then you have a negative ROI. You’ve given your student the college experience, but not the long-term benefits of college.
Remember, a college diploma itself is no longer a guarantee of a better life. While I believe strongly that it is important for many, many students to pursue their college dreams, it is imperative that they choose their college, their major, and their free time activities with care so that it is, indeed, worthwhile.
Is my child one who should go to college, a tech school, or apprentice with a master craftsman?
Just because a student is not college material does not mean that the parents have failed, it means that they see the bent of their child and choose to follow a logical training path with a positive ROI. This is a choice I respect.
However, I don’t respect the mindset that bashes any higher education or sees evil in every secular institution. These folks are often driven by fear rather than a logical decision to pick the best path. Even sadder are the parents who are not willing to make the sacrifice and invest in excellent training for their child because they don’t want to spend the money. This usually starts in high school with an inferior education, which means that there are no good choices when it comes time to launch.
As you evaluate your child’s path to adulthood, I invite you to take an honest look at your child’s abilities, what they want to do with their life, the options they have to train in that particular area, and the ROI of your various choices.
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