“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
Are you worried about college? Most homeschool families do. I am sure you have concerns about properly equipping your students for college admissions, checking off the “right” credits, and preparing them for the all-important standardized tests. Then, once students are admitted, new worries about the rising costs of higher education begin. Whether you are teaching a rising high school senior or a first grade student, it is important to consider the right goals of a Christian education. Do we believe Matthew 6:33, that all things will be added to us if we seek first the kingdom of God, or do we lean on our own understanding?
David Kern wrote an interesting piece recently about classical education and college. Like David, I am highly disturbed by the rising cost of “higher” education as it continues to spiral upward, like a bubble that will eventually implode. I have serious concerns about the loss of freedom that results for individuals heavily saddled by college debt. Students saddled with debt may have fewer choices about their career path. For example, a student hampered by student loans may be less likely to start his own business. On the other hand, if our children do not owe money, they will be freer to do as they please (of course, in the United States we have property tax, so even if something has been paid in full, you still must find enough money to pay for the right to continue to own it). Tax issues aside, less debt means more freedom. (the Bible has a lot to say about not getting into debt. See Proverb 22:7,26-27, Deuteronomy 15:1-23, Luke 14:28-30, and Romans 13:8).
There are three areas of our economy where the government is the primary market force/buyer: health care (Medicare/Obamacare), housing (mortgages through Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/other agencies), and education (student loans). Each of these areas has experienced much higher inflation than average because of the inefficient way the government participates in the market. Education costs have become distorted higher because they have been subsidized so heavily. Perhaps homeschoolers will lead the way toward increased privatization of higher education.
The skyrocketing costs of higher education have decreased the value of a college diploma. At one point in the past two years, the average plumber had a higher salary and lower unemployment risk than a lawyer. Most plumbers can work for themselves and do not have $250,000 or more in college debt hanging over their heads. There are professions, such as medicine or engineering, that require extended education, but that need not be the norm for everyone. Today, your Starbuck barista may have $50,000 in debt and a four year college degree! Unfortunately, this is a testimony to the fact that many four year degrees have an educational value which is actually lower than that of a high school diploma sixty years ago; this is not a testimony to a healthy society.
So, what is a family to do? We know we need to provide for our families, and we want to give our children every opportunity to do so as well. It is not helpful to complain about a problem and then not offer a solution. It also makes sense that there will be multiple solutions to this problem. As in the case of problems with government-run lower education, it may well be the free-thinking homeschoolers that blaze new paths to post high school learning.
A couple of alternatives to college which have been implemented are the Mandala Fellowship, Rivendell Sanctuary, and other gap programs. Peter Theil, a wealthy investor, has pioneered a great idea of paying students not to go to college. Could we expand on this idea and offer our students funding designated for starting a business; for example, $20,000 a year? That is much less expensive than most colleges’ annual expenses. After four years, we will have invested $80,000, but we will have gained the possibility of a much freer and more viable future. If the business performs well, it will pay for itself well before the four years are up. If it does not work out, but the student has applied himself, the benefits will be immense. Potentially, businessmen around your city will be lining up to hire such a student to manage their stores. Another option is to go to a school like Grove City College, which is reasonably priced, does not accept government funding, and does not want students to incur any debt.
As with the housing bubble, the internet bubble, and most anything else artificially propped up through taxes, the college bubble will pop. Students who have utilized alternatives to college will be in a much better position than those who have their heads buried in the sand. Is college properly ordered in your educational plans for your students, or are you following worldly wisdom?