• Lori Turner

Take the College Goggles Off

Updated: May 21

Take the College Goggles Off by Lori Turner

Most human beings have dreamed about their future and one day having a family. These wishes may include a great education, good job, beautiful spouse, a decent home, and couple of kids. If you haven’t thought about these basic life achievements, don’t worry. Life can be very complicated, and wishing you could hide under that decorative rock in your front yard will not stop the inevitable responsibility that comes along with being an adult. We all grow up in one way or another. Although the risks to have a child might seem frightening at first, getting to shape and influence this little version of yourself into a whole person is the ultimate reward. Yes, it is immense work and a big financial responsibility for another life, but your child will love you and you will love them in return with all of your heart and soul. Maybe one day you’ll become a grandparent, entering the next phase of your life. We want the best for our little humans and spend most of our free evenings doing homework and driving them to and from practice, often after an exhausting day at work. In return, you expect good grades, exceptional effort in sports, and having to pay an obscene amount of money to send them off to college one day. Isn’t that the norm these days in 2020? Every parent expects their child to go to college, get a degree, and do the exact same thing as you were expected by your parents. Your parents placed high expectations upon you, so it is only natural you continue the cycle of your dreams for your kids. Wait one minute. Your dreams? Does anyone stop and ask kids what they want? There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for a child, but what if they decide to take a different career path, or skip college altogether? If you have a soon to be high school graduate, take a moment and ask them “why” they are going to college instead of “where”. The answer may surprise you, and it may be something you don’t want to hear.

Discussions about education don’t stop with family members. It takes on a life of its own when parents get together for playgroups. Playgroups are for older babies and toddlers to expose them to their first socialization experiences with their peers. Playgroups are the beginning of the educational process. First comes playgroup and then comes preschool. Most parents in their own minds skip a few years ahead and already envision college. Isn’t that the end of this child-rearing story? In reality, these playgroups are just as much enjoyed by the adults. It gives them a break from their rambunctious young offspring as a way to hang out with someone their own age. Imagine a backyard full of toddlers playing in the sandbox dumping sand on each other’s heads while all the adults sit at the picnic table having intense discussions about college. By the time playgroup is over, parents have chosen what sport is going to provide the best scholarships for that future college. All the while the kids aren’t even potty trained yet! Parents are willing to do anything to fulfill that narrative they created in their own minds, including convincing the child the only path they can take to become a success in life is by earning a college degree. Colleges know this. Parents willingly hand over their most precious child to an institution that doesn’t guarantee a job upon receiving a degree despite being handed an average college debt of $40,000. Once that college graduate walks off of campus is when the real education begins. An unforgiving boss, a low wage, and a lifetime of mounting debt. Was it all worth it?

Sue Reichenfeld, a mother of two boys who are now grown with careers and families, are both college graduates with two totally different experiences. While working full time she was able to send both of her boys through college. Her oldest son attended a local college pursuing a medical degree as a means to propel himself forward and then onto an online master’s program. He is now successfully working as a radiologist and decided not to pursue a Physician’s Assistant degree as his student loans would cost $200,000. Her youngest son, an aspiring film artist, chose an out of state college for film school and received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree. However, Sue feels this was a total waste of money as it did not prepare him for the real world and he is struggling to make a solid career in a very competitive field.

Back in the 1980’s college tuition was affordable. Community College tuition was reasonable enough you could have a part-time job, pay tuition, dues, and have money left over for gasoline and a cheeseburger. According to Forbes Magazine 1. www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/price-of-college-increasing-almost-8-times-faster-than-wages/#7beb5a2f66c1 in 2018 the cost of college tuition grew 8 times higher than the average income. Many employers require a degree but wages are so low and with mounting student debt people are just not getting ahead. Education should be a great personal investment but what price do you pay if you can’t even move out of your parent’s home? For 35 years college tuition has steadily gone up, while wages have sadly gone down. The college bubble will only burst once people realize they simply can’t afford it and look for other options to make a decent living. Yes, parents, there are other options and if you take the college goggles off, your child can still be a success without a six-figure college degree to nowhere.

Trade and vocational schools traditionally have not been on the radar of playgroup parents. There are many negative attitudes and misconceptions because most of those classes in high schools were located at the back of the school where all the “weird” outcast kids gathered. These vocational programs have little to no funding and with parents pushing kids away from such programs, there isn’t much exposure left for carpenters, mechanics, woodworking, and other career paths requiring single focus. Many parents are caught up in their own selfish expectations ignoring the fact a college degree sets a person back into debt, not to a successful life. Children are afraid to push back and give up their dreams to please parents only to be miserable and either earn a worthless degree or drop out of college altogether? It leaves a wake of disappointed parents and depressed and anxious adult children.

According to https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/03/choosing-trade-school-over-college/584275/ the National Center for Education Statistics. “Trade-school enrollment has risen, from 9.6 million students in 1999 to 16 million in 2014. This resurgence came after a decline in vocational education in the 1980s and ’90s. That dip created a shortage of skilled workers and tradespeople.” But why is vocational school still stigmatized as a place where the behaviorally challenged students go? It is because there is a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to education in the United States and there is no exposure to skilled trades at a young age. Kids and parents simply don’t know that a streamlined skill set leads to a secure career path. That attitude needs to change and the solution is simple. Start by giving up this notion a child must follow in your footsteps. Back in the day, it was much easier to earn a college degree and a student loan could be paid off within 5-10 years. Colleges now prey on this notion everyone has conned themselves into believing the liberal arts degree is the only career path. The cost of a degree no longer makes sense. If you have a child living at home and you have woken up from your shortsightedness go to them now and ask them “why” instead of “where” they are going to college. It might be time to take the college goggles off and put the protective trade school glasses on.

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