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This post was written by guest writer, Michael Smith.
Everyone knows how valuable a college degree is. We hear all the time how much more a person will make over their lifetime with a degree than without one. We also hear about student debt and how many students graduate owing a ton of money that will take years to pay back.
What should parents do to prepare for their child’s future? What is the best strategy and when should it start? Is saving money for your child’s future college the best investment you can make?
While there is no disputing the value of a degree, saving for college assumes first of all that your child will get into college and second, do well enough to graduate and earn a degree.
These are two big assumptions that perhaps put the cart in front of the horse. Studies show that just a bit more than half of the students that enter college actually graduate.
Think about that. Should your child get into a college or university, there is only a fifty/fifty chance, basically a toss-up, that he or she will make it through to graduation. Potentially, all the money you saved for higher education could go down the tubes without the intended result.
Case against college or University
There are many reasons why a child might not succeed in college. They may be mechanically or artistically inclined and be better suited to a trade or specific vocation in which they will thrive and find success. They might seek order and discipline and find that one of the armed services fills this need.
Some might have no interest in college at that point in their lives and prefer to join the workforce. Quite often, however, students are not academically prepared and consequently are not able to keep up with college demands.
Academically challenged students usually represent a failure of prior schools and teachers to identify or deal with specific student needs and deficiencies. The easy way out is to pass the problem up to the next educational level just to be rid of it. The problem here is that the child does not learn or fully understand the work needed to progress to the next level which makes success at the next level virtually impossible.
Much like a building that does not have a firm foundation and eventually crumbles, there will come a point where the ability to assimilate and integrate new information collapses and leaves the student inn a hopeless situation.
Focus on a strong foundation for a lifetime
It is imperative that each child has a solid foundation on which to build their skills. Without this, college graduation is a pipe dream or the degree achieved by just getting by will be of little use in the workplace. Rather than plan and save for the future, might it be better to invest in the child’s education at a younger age to ensure his or her needs are recognized and helped?
In many cases, money spent during the formative years may be a better long-term investment and lead to a more productive payoff. Investing in tutoring, assisted learning centers, or tuition schools that focus on learning essentials might better prepare children for secondary schools and college.
Kids who develop excellent reading skills are in a much stronger position to assimilate and build on new information. The earlier these skills are learned and honed, the better.
Looking at alternatives to college
Parents who want the best for their child and want them to have every advantage in life face tough decisions. While we all want to get on board the college train and make sure our kids get into a “good” or “big name” college or university. the fact of the matter is that it is not the school you go to that matters as much as how you do in the school.
There is nothing wrong with going to a local or state community (2-year) college and then transferring to a 4-year institution. Most kids don’t decide on a career until their junior or senior year anyway. And kids who are serious about their work will be successful.
Some reasons to go to college
Despite the discouraging national graduation rate and cost of college, attendance is good for some young people.
College is a good opportunity to enter some of the best paying jobs in the economy. For example, bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, are among the professions where a degree is necessary. If your child has the ambition to complete college and her choice of career requires it, then she should pursue it.
College is good for personal development and grow, if your child is ambitious enough to complete it. Once he graduates, the degree will open doors that otherwise will remained closed. College will definitely provide more opportunities, rather than less.
Think about your child options and opportunities. If she finished High School and doesn’t have other alternatives, college may be the best bet.
The point of all this is to focus on how to spend our limited time and money wisely. There is a need to weight the pros and cons before going to college.
Some thoughts on money
Does your child meet or exceed the reading and math skills of his/her peers and have no problem learning new information? If so, directing educational funds to a 529 savings account or other vehicle for college savings might be the best long-term investment.
If your child is not meeting peer standards because of an underperforming school and/or teachers or poor or inadequate help resources, using available educational funds for private tutoring or paid learning networks might be the best long-term investment.
The decision to attend college should not be by default. There are some positive outcomes when you graduate college. However, looking at the national graduation statistics, college is clearly not for every student. It’s important to evaluate and be honest about the student’s skills and level of interest in completing college. Also, the alternatives to college should be equally evaluated.