I was the first person in my family to graduate from college.
And once I did that, I went right on to grad school and got my masters degree in elementary ed.
I have spent lots of time talking to the kids about college.
Discussing how grades are important if you even want to have a slight chance to receive a grant or a scholarship.
Talking about being well-rounded and proactive and blah blah blah.
The other day I was talking to a couple people I coach with.
One of the coaches has two kids who are two and four years old, and he went to see a financial advisor recently.
That was where he received the news that by the time he gets to college, his four-year-old’s education at a state school will cost around $220,000.
At a state school.
That’s a bargain though compared to the 2-year-old.
The two-year-old’s state school education will cost closer to $280,000.
Two hundred and eighty thousand fucking dollars.
That means an education at a school like the one I went to will probably run close to $500,000.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately.
There is no way I will have 500 or 280 or 220 thousand dollars for Number 7 when she is ready to go to college.
And I’m not sure I can encourage her to put herself a quarter to a half a million dollars in debt for a college education.
If she definitely knows what she wants to do and a college education is required?
If she is certain she wants to be a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer or an architect or whatever…
Sure. Then I’ll suggest she start saving some money.
If she gets a full scholarship somewhere?
Well then of course.
She’ll go to college. If she wants to.
But if she has no idea what the heck she wants to do?
Well, I’m not sure she needs to blow 500k hoping to figure it out.
And I don’t want to blow 500K on that, either.
I know our current financial situation has something to do with my thinking.
But it’s not just that.
Now I’m sure all you people who are gasping in horror at the mere suggestion that maybe college isn’t necessary will fire off a whole bunch of pro college statistics.
Say what you want.
There are no guarantees.
And if we are going to be totally honest, college is really just a technicality for most of us.
Nothing that you learn in college is really all that useful once you are out in the real world.
What’s useful when you are in the real world is experience of having been in the real world.
Like back in the old days.
When people had apprentices.
That’s how you learned how to do stuff.
On the job.
I didn’t learn to be a good teacher in grad school.
I learned to be a good teacher in the classroom.
I didn’t learn to be a good coach in college.
I learned to be a good coach by working alongside other good coaches. Starting off as an assistant and working my way up.
I sure as hell didn’t learn anything about being a mother from reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting.
I learned about being a mother by, um, being a mother.
I’ve spent all this time talking to my kids about how important college is. How they need to be preparing for college. How they need to work in order to pay for college.
But all for what?
So (hopefully only) four years later they can graduate with no guarantee of a job, no place to live, no real life experience, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?
What if I did this instead…
What if, up until they graduated, I really taught my kids about money?
What if I taught them that unless they could afford something, they shouldn’t buy it?
What if I taught them to value experiences, and not things?
What if, by some miracle my kids and I were able to come up with $250,000 for each of them once they graduated from high school?
And what if we took $150,000 of that and bought them a house. Or a condo?
They would never have to worry about paying rent or putting a roof over their heads.
And then, what if they took $25,000 and traveled? Or used that to live on while trying a few different lines of work or pursuing a passion?
And figuring out what it really is that they love to do? And what they are good at?
Because that’s what I want for them.
The opportunity to build a life around the things they are passionate about.
Not the things that we as a society have determined they should be doing.
I’m not necessarily anti-college.
But I’m also not of the mindset that it’s the be all and end all.
I could encourage my kids to save $500,000 in order to get drunk and have sex and dance in a bar to Sweet Caroline every Saturday night, and then receive a piece of paper that could prove to be worthwhile but which could also prove to be almost useless, or I could encourage them to make a choice that might be more intelligent.
What if they saw the world?
What if they volunteered and developed compassion and understanding and a work ethic?
All while owning their own home, having a balance in their bank account, and no debt anywhere to be seen?
I know that’s probably not going to be possible or realistic.
But the more I think about it, the more I start to wonder if creating an education for my kids makes a lot more sense and will provide them with more opportunities and happiness than buying an education for them will.