Getting a College Degree in Today’s World

college capsWith a large family,  I knew that college and its costs would be the big bugaboo in our family.  My husband’s philosophy is that if the kids want a college education than they’ll find a way to pay for it themselves, and urging them not to do it with loans, as it isn’t very fun or smart to graduate from college with a lot of debt hanging over one’s head.  Aim for great ACT scores, have good grades in high school, and hopefully some academic  scholarships could come their way.

Our oldest decided to serve our country for four years, and then use the G.I. Bill to pay for college.   As his last year in the service is now upon him, he is evaluating  colleges he might want to enroll at.  Some of the states charge the “out of state” tuition rates to veterans and some don’t, which has been a nice surprise for him.   Our second child was accepted at College of the Ozarks which has the  nickname of “Hardwork U”.   Our daughter  works for the college while taking the required courses for her  degree, and that pays for her tuition.  Some scholarships were also earned by her during her senior year at Rolla High, so those have paid for her room and board.  Her only expenses were for books and supplies, which was manageable  for our family’s budget.  Child #3 will be a senior at Rolla High this coming Fall, and he doesn’t want to pursue a career that requires a 4 year degree.  He is looking to gain his training via the Community College route, which again, will be easier on our family’s budget.  There are still 4 more kids to raise and educate, but their college careers are not in the immediate future, yet.

Looking over our first 3 childrens’ choices for higher education made me start musing about earning a  college degree  today.  Tuition costs have been rising steadily and they don’t look like they’ll be slowing down in the near future either.   I read an interesting article by Richard Wolin, for the July 2, 2012 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Wolin pointed out that college tuitions have been rising since 1986, at an increase of 500%!  He also shared some startling statistics: A household that earns $90,000 or more, the children of these households stand a 50% chance of attending college and earning a bachelors degree by the age of 24.   A household that earns $60,000-$70,000 and the odds fall by half, only 1 out of 4 children will earn that degree by the age of 24.  A household earning $35,000 and that odd increases, to only 1 out of 17 earning that degree.  Wolin also pointed out that in order to offset the rising costs of tuition, low and  middle-income students are graduating with tons of student loan debt.  The average debt owed is $23,000.

I then recalled a blurb of news I had heard on the radio last week about a legislator in Missouri telling the State’s  Department of Higher Education that perhaps degrees should be offered that will lead to students finding jobs, and less degrees should be offered in careers that aren’t very lucrative and have high rates of students who remain unemployed after graduation for far too long.   That blurb got me to researching for some more information: The 12 Worst College Degrees, meaning that those who graduate with these degrees have a very hard time finding employment,  and they don’t earn much pay, which would make paying off those student loans very difficult.  Here are those degrees:  English, History, Sociology, Graphic Arts, Drama, Physical Fitness & Parks and Recreation, Music, Liberal Arts, Philosophy, Fine Arts, Film& Video& Photographic Arts, Anthropology, and Archaeology.  I found those two lists from Forbes magazine online and Kiplinger online, so it is a combination of their Top Worst Degrees lists.

Next, I decided to find the Top 10 College Degrees, the ones where graduates find jobs, and find jobs that pay pretty well for beginning employees.   These degrees are: Information Science and Systems, Construction Science and Management, Civil Engineering, Finance, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace/Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Engineers.  If those trends continue, then American public schools need to focus on mathematics and sciences!

Not all students are drawn to careers in such technical fields.  College educations are increasingly expensive.  Students and parents need to really examine carefully what the student wants to pursue for his career field.  There should be no shame in working a year or two out of high school, saving one’s earnings, and really evaluating what degree a person wants to attend college for.  Far more economical than launching off  to college with a major of  “Undecided”, and waste a year of money, or two, in trying out one course of study and then having to change it in mid-stream.

At the end of Wolin’s article, he pointed out how in the 1960s and 1970s, colleges were pushed and/or pressured to allow more students from diverse backgrounds to enroll at their campuses, students  who in the past wouldn’t have been considered “appropriate”  for college.  He warned that with today’s exorbitant tuition costs, colleges are once again shutting out the students from lower-income households, and colleges are becoming what they fought against in the 1960s and 1970s, exclusive places where one can attend if they are from an upper middle class or higher level of income family.

It seems to me that if one wants that college degree, then one should:  work very hard in high school to get those top grades, take the college entrance tests whether it be the ACT or SAT, research all of the scholarships out there that one can apply for and apply for them,  research the schools where the desired degree can be earned for the least expenditure from the parents’ pockets, if a college is close to one’s hometown then consider living at home and being a commuter student,  if one works a part-time job in high school, sock that money away for that degree.  Be very sure of what you want to go to college for, work hard and earn that degree, work a part-time job while earning that degree(I did that, working for one of the on-campus cafeterias),  and try your hardest not to graduate with loads of debt hanging over your head.

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