The June issue of Money magazine contains a disturbing article. “The Trouble with Public Colleges” examines the serious problems confronting high school seniors and their parents this year. Public colleges, faced with record applications, smaller budgets, and increased costs, are coping by cutting programs and services, reducing staff, and raising tuition. This means incoming freshmen may have a more difficult time finding a school, affording the tuition, and getting specific classes needed for their major. And state universities can no longer be considered the “sure thing” that students and parents rely on if their plans for private school education don’t work out.
The article goes into detail about the reasons behind the colleges’ problems. It also gives advice for parents trying to cope with all of this. However, the most significant line for me was at the very end. The author, Pat Regnier, makes the point that where you go to college doesn’t matter for most kids. The real difference in America “is between those who go to college and finish and those who don’t”.
There is such wisdom in that statement- it is astonishing to me that most people don’t understand the significance of it. Our own family has dealt with this issue forever. My husband went to college for several years, but because of some family problems, didn’t graduate. As a consequence, he spent his life in “jobs” rather than pursuing the career he had planned. Our oldest daughter majored in education at her local university and has been teaching for most of her adult life. Our other daughter managed to carve out a business career for herself without going to college, but her story is unique and she put in years of hard work and determination to get where she is today. The road might have been easier and smoother with a degree. And what she did is getting more and more difficult for younger generations to do at all. Our son went to college for eight years, but never got a degree. He skipped classes, put little effort into the ones he attended, and became bored with the whole process before dropping out. Consequently he has had a series of jobs he hasn’t liked, that haven’t paid well, and he regrets the years and money he wasted. He now plans to return to college and improve the quality of his life. I went to our local university when I graduated from high school, but I married young, quit college and didn’t return until I was 42 years old. When I finally got a degree in education it completely changed my life. I went from a struggling housewife who always had two or three part-time jobs or a “long hours, low pay job” to a professional woman with a career.
And my career hasn’t just meant more money for our family. It has meant better health care for me. It has meant more time and money for my community. My degree has also allowed me to change the lives of my students. I wonder about the class that will be graduating from Caddo High School in a few days. How many lives would be changed in our community if just half of those students graduate from college?
My grandchildren will soon be contemplating college. I would advise them to consider their talents and aspirations and income far more than the reputation of the college they will attend. There are good teachers and bad teachers on any campus. There are problems on every campus. What matters is learning as much as possible about your intended career, training for it, and getting the credentials that allow you to pursue it. What matters is finishing what you start. When you are out here working in the real world most people don’t know or care where you went to college unless you are talking about sports. They just care about how well you perform in your profession.