If you have read my short biographical description or visited my website, you probably know my leanings. For many of the ‘X’ generation, college was just what we did after high school. College opened up the spectrum of jobs available to us. College ensured we would earn higher wages than those who eschewed college. Because I had a degree, an American Express management position was made available to me shortly after graduation. The work I have done in collegiate marketing owes much to having a degree. College served me, and maybe you, well. But will it do the same for our children?
Just last week another of the ubiquitous traditional-college-trashing articles was published under the title, “No College Degree Required: $100,000 Jobs.”1 This particular article highlighted four jobs that paid six-figures on the high end and required no degree. I found the best part of the article to be the advice that students consider community colleges and vocational technical schools as a less expensive option for certain jobs that can be obtained without four or more years of college. While I generally find the logic of these articles to be inchoate, there are, undoubtedly, good careers available to those who do not invest the substantial amount of time and money necessary to get a traditional college degree.
The real question, in my opinion, should not be, “How expensive is this degree or certificate?” but rather, “How efficacious is this degree or certificate?” The average debt of the medical school graduate was $154,000 in 2008.2 For a satisfying career that will allow your child to gain employment in their chosen field and pay off their debt, is $154,000 too much? Is $60,000 a better deal for an online chef’s certificate which can be difficult to parlay into significant salaried positions?
After selecting a program that gives your son or daughter a good chance of finding a good-paying job in the field to which they feel called, there is also the question of mental readiness in the postmodern world. Most of us know a homeschooler who spent a lot of money at college, whether or not they finished, while goofing off. While participating in the Midwest homeschool convention circuit this year, I believe I heard it all. I think of the young man who went to a pricey Christian university because that was what he felt he was supposed to do. He told me he never purchased a book, but was gifted with enough cunning to survive three years before being expelled for bad grades. Why could he not find time to read? He became addicted to online role-play games, spending twelve to fourteen hours a day gaming.