November 18, 2014

Is College Always The Right Choice For Our Grandchildren?

Not long ago I was contacted by a fellow who works for an Internet training company. The CEO had just posed a provocative question on their web site. The question asked was whether a college education is worth the money. Is there enough of a return on the investment of tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars for everyone who goes?

The author, Dave Dunn, cited figures that projected the costs of sending his three children to private colleges several years into the future. The totals were over $1,000,000. He used that million dollar figure to raise the issue.

Aside from the obvious fact that no one has to go to the most expensive private universities (unless on a full scholarship!), his point is still one that we, as parents and grandparents should ask. The mess that has become the college loan industry has been in the news. We are probably quite aware that the cost of a college education, even at a state run university, averages close to $40,000 for in-state students, and $100,000 for out-of-state attendees. Triple that for a top flight Ivy League or private college and there is serious money involved.

When I was in high school, it was expected that everyone who could afford to do so would go to four years of college after graduation. For those with limited means, two year junior colleges (now community colleges) were an option. Technical schools were available for those with mechanical interests. But, in my neighborhood of suburban Boston, college was simply a given.

As post high school education became increasingly expensive, folks began to ask the question: is college right and necessary for everyone? Well, for some professions like doctor or lawyer the answer was, and remains, yes. But, how about for other careers or job paths? How many require a four year degree versus shorter, specialized training and experience? 

For this post, I raise the question because grandparents are sometimes asked for help in sending a grandchild to college, or of their own volition establish a college fund for a child's child. If the money is available is college always the best option? Do we accept that a high school graduate may leave college already seriously in debt?

As the graduate of a well respected private university I will add two thoughts:

1) I have freely admitted that the money my parents spent on me was largely wasted. I had decided on my career path while barely a teenager. My chosen profession did not require a college education. During my last two years in college I worked almost full time at a radio station in town, learning my craft and improving my future prospects. My college classes were an interruption. In my case, college was somewhat wasted on the young.

2) I wish I could have gone to college when I was older. I would have possessed the maturity and intellectual curiosity to have made full use of what college is meant to do: teach one to think and learn critically and independently. 

Before anyone starts leaving nasty comments I will make it clear that I know that continuing one's education after high school is essential for the development of many of the skills for success in our technologically oriented world. High School graduates face a daunting task to survive and thrive. When used to its fullest, those extra years of schooling can be a building block to a full and satisfying life.

But, with a college education becoming something that is being priced out of reach of all but the well-to-do, we should ask if a traditional college is always the best choice. And, as grandparents, whether we pay part of the bill or not, we should ask if a four year institution is in the best interests of the young adult.


What do you think? How critical is that diploma? Is the amount of debt often required justified?

What about on-line college degrees, where most of the work is done, at home, with only limited classroom time required? Technical colleges are readily available for virtually any career choice. Community colleges have developed well past just being a feeder system for four year schools.

Is the time away at school important in one's development as an adult? Is it more than just classes and study?

Your feedback is encouraged.



38 comments:

  1. My son in law went into the Marines and got a highly academic skill. He was then hired by the government and his skills were enhanced. He is now managing more people and more skillful then his supervisor. Why is he not the supervisor? He does not have the degree. He is taking internet classes at night while working full time and raising a family for a piece of paper. His last class was taught by a lawyer who had been disbarred- a law class required for his degree in Internet security.

    Until the mindset of the employer changes, a degree is necessary.

    Education, in general, has got to change. Until we all stop supporting the system, it will happily roll in as much money as it can.

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    1. I am very interested in the range of opinions I hope this post stimulates. Yours, Janette, is right on the money. In too many cases a degree is necessary only because it is a degree, not because it enhances skills or the ability to perform well.

      A high school graduate is at a very serious disadvantage without some advanced training or education. But, the question becomes what type and level of advanced training is best for that individual? Does it have to be a traditional degree? Is there another path that builds the necessary skills and judgment?

      You are right: a single standard is too often the default option that employers require.

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  2. I agree there are many artificial barriers to those lacking a BA, starting with job postings. Years ago, I was an admin asst (with a BA) and then the employer made a BA mandatory for the job. There was nothing in job content to require it: if you could type in English, keep books and assorted lists, you could do the job.

    Having said that, I wouldn't trade my degrees for the world. They expose you to a variety of subjects and thought. I do think it would be a great motivator to work for a couple of years first...there's nothing like picking strawberries or making sundaes for a summer, which I did, to make you value school. I would also say there are a lot of well paying jobs in technical fields where a AA/certificate is fine.

    Lastly, there are many ways to fund an education. I don't know many ways to get others to fund retirement. So, unless you're swimming in $$$ or giving in lieu of inheritance, don't fund a grandchild's education.

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    1. The cliché that college is wasted on the young is true for many. The real benefit of advanced education is its potential to teach someone to think and analyze situations critically, to come to conclusions independently, and expand one's horizons.

      All of that could come from a period of travel, from working for a few years, from a traditional or non-traditional higher educational path, or even from independent study. Mandatory choices, like you experienced, do a disservice to everyone.

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  3. I think Community Colleges are a great option. It's a relatively inexpensive way to work on study habits, explore the college atmosphere and get your Math,English, etc. basics done at a lower cost. Especially if the student is uncertain of a career path. I think there is a lot to be said for going out to work a little before college and seeing the world some.. maybe waiting would help clarify goals and also bring more appreciation to the college experience if chosen. Of course nurses, doctors,lawyers, know up front they need those degrees.But there are so many tech. fields now.. some self-study, apprenticeships, etc. might be a good start, then a degree a couple of years down the road?? An overhaul of our educational system (daunting!) is in order! With so MUCH focus on tech. jobs.. APPRENTICESHIP programs would be the way to go.. the tech field changes rapidly--only by working side by side in the field with others, are the skills learned.. maybe the degree is important for management, but many high tech jobs skills are best learned ON THE JOB! I would hesitate to fund or even suggest a huge college debt right up front especially if the student is unclear on goals .. take some time out! Learn about the world first, then go to school.Just my humble opinion!!

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    1. ...and a good opinion, Madeline. Apprenticeships is something I hadn't considered and don't know much about, but in certain jobs isn't that still they way to go? I may be off base, but folks training to be electricians or fine cabinet makers are in an apprenticeship-type environment, aren't they?

      Like the previous comment, your idea of time off to travel and learn a bit about life can be a smart choice for some. I probably would have gotten more out of my 4 years at Syracuse if I had taken some time off between high school and becoming a freshman at SU.

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  4. Both my husband and I were blessed with traditional four-year degrees from universities. However, both of our kids chose different routes following high school. It was extremely hard for us to stand by and listen to their ideas, but we respected their opinions. Our son, a lover of aircraft, joined the Air Force, served for 20 yrs (yes, there were some horrible times of homesickness), retired with benefits, then proceeded to take online classes to earn his degree. He now has a job with the federal government and will probably work another 20 yrs. Our daughter decided to pursue a nursing career. She went to a community college, on a full scholarship, and three years later was an RN, making a solild salary and loving her job. Our kids' post high school education cost us nearly nothing, so we've enjoyed giving them substantial financial gifts. Those gifts have impacted their lives and enabled them to live without much debt. Every child is different. Every family would benefit from staying open minded, listening to your child, then researching for ways to achieve those dreams. I think the community college option is fabulous. Many years ago, I worked on a government grant, tracking com col students who transferred to state universities for their last two years, compared with university student who started out as freshmen, and stayed thru their senior yrs. Amazingly, those students who went to com col first, were more likely to finish and had higher GPAs. There are many variables that can affect outcomes, but the affordability of com col and the smaller class sizes are important factors to consider. Now that parents are able to keep college students on their family insurance plan until they're 26, there's more time for self discovery for those who don't have a clue about their future. A few years to travel, work, whatever, may help them decide which road to travel.

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    1. Pam, your story makes a great addition to this discussion. You are in a position to compare one path with another and point out the consequences.

      I have read the same information about success rates for those who start at a community college and transfer to a four year school to finish. While I have never seen this proven, I am willing to bet the lack of a strong social life, like fraternity and sorority options at 2 year schools, has a lot to do with this fact. The two years of schooling and extra time of maturing without a focus on other issues must be beneficial.

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  5. Fascinating subject, Bob. Dave was in college when I met him, and he was not happy. He suffered migraines and I believe it was because he felt he was going to college to please his parents, not himself. His sister was, and still is, a degree snob who has to tell you which school and what degree someone has before she introduces them. She was mortified when she learned Dave was making more money than her, and he was a college drop out! The nerve! Never mind she went into elementary education. No one does that with $$ in mind, I thought.
    Anyway, when it came time for our oldest to go I wanted him to try community college, or get a job and grow up a bit more. Dave was insistent he go to college and we would pay the tab. He didn't last long, and he floundered for quite a while. Then he met the love of his life and turned things around. Now he's highly successful with a national corporation.
    Our youngest wanted to be an actor. I had to argue hard for him to go to school for theater, because Dave thought it should, maybe, be a minor course. After our first experience I was able to make my case and he got his degree in theater. He spent a few years in NYC, he worked in untold number of restaurants, and then went into the hospitality industry. He was highly successful, but last year abruptly quit and went into Real Estate. Go figure!
    I guess my take on this is, each child is different. Know who they are and let them lead the way. If they really want to go to college, I say, "Show me how much you want it." Working your way through college is not a sin. Assisting your kids is not, either. But carrying the full load puts too much pressure on both sides, I believe. Times have changed, and will continue to based on the insanity of college loans today. Hopefully we'll learn a degree does not make a better person.
    Just my 2 cents worth.
    b

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    1. Very thoughtful comment, Barbara. The details of your family's experiences in this area give us several different models.

      I did work to pay most of my way the last two years at Syracuse, but that wasn't because my parents asked I contribute. Rather, I was already on my career path and the money was simply a nice bonus.

      Both our daughters went to college and both got out with no debt. That was our promise to them and Betty and I are happy they could start life without that burden. If either had wanted to go to graduate school that would have been on their dime, but both girls were set on their paths and didn't need an Masters to be successful.

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  6. My niece is going to an all woman Ivy. It was the one school that didn't offer her a scholarship but her parents were in the fortunate position of having saved money for her--every last dime is being spent on school.
    I have watched her flourish. She was an insecure girl. Now at 20 she's an amazing woman. Being in classes with all women lets them compete on a more even playing field--and many studies have shown that women who go to all women schools go further after college. It is affiliated with a coed school and she can take any class there.
    She's getting ready for her junior semester in Paris and has mixed feelings as there are seminars she wants to take, a Saturday program for disadvantaged teens she directs, and a well-known blog she writes for. I can't imagine having mixed feelings but am glad she does.
    As everyone has said everybody is different and the choice should be up to them. It was easier for her because of the finances--and my parents provided the seed money. If grandparents can afford it--it won't take away from their life why shouldn't they help?

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    1. Thanks, Pia, for adding to our discussion. The point about a single-sex college is an interesting one. They seem to be on the way out (or all male schools starting to accept women) but you correctly note some real advantages for many.

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  7. I'm facing decisions about helping to fund education for family members so this topic is close to my heart. I have to agree with others that the usefulness of a college education depends a lot on the individual. Something I feel college educations provide is in depth examination of a subject. I wouldn't want to be dealing with an accountant who took one on-line course for 3 months in accounting! I think there's a trend toward superficial knowledge of subject matter. Just like babies, you can't really be knowledgeable in a subject unless you've spent significant time studying it. I also think a higher education provides an opportunity to practice at living independently, determining your own schedule, managing your life.

    That said, I'd rather see grandparents focusing on supporting grade school and high school achievement, not necessarily with $$, but with time and involvement. As a working parent, I was challenged to oversee the day to day activities of my child at school and could have used another set of eyes and ears.

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    1. Two excellent points I'd like to emphasize. " I think there's a trend toward superficial knowledge of subject matter" is very true. That comment applies to much of our society today, not just education.

      Secondly, I love your bringing up the idea of stronger support for grade school and high school involvement and support. For youngsters the die is cast quite young. The active involvement of concerned adults can make a tremendous difference.

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  8. I wish there were more options of trade schools and hands on jobs along with the schools only encouraging degrees at a university. I think....and know others have a different opinion...which I respect....that our school systems demean the trades....plumber, electrician, welder, etc. Not all people are cut out for or want to become an academic.
    I also have seen too many parents plunge themselves into huge debt while paying all the children's college bills. While that said student never has held down a job or worked while in school. We helped our daughter but she had to work summers and a very small part-time job during school. The university she attended told us that working students are better time managers and usually get better grades. I think this helps the young person understand why they need to work hard and appreciate the degree they are pursuing.
    Someone in our family really went into debt for their first child and now the second is at university and the debt is just getting deeper for them. Neither of their children has had to sacrifice at all to pay for their education. They have no idea what a tight spot their parents are in. I also wonder how they will function in the world as they have always had things so easy financially.

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    1. In my area there are several "magnet" schools for those with a technological bent, but none I am aware of that stress the very important, well-paying trades that you mention. At $100 an hour plumbers do better financially that many and it is a profession that the rest of us depend on. I agree completely.

      My parents made the mistake you are talking about. They sent me to an expensive private university, cut back for my middle brother so he went for two years to a state school in Florida, and left my youngest brother with little direct support, except from a generous uncle. In retrospect I am sure they wish they had allocated their resources differently. We all worked while at school and during the summer, but the finances were still out of whack.

      I think starting life with a large debt is even worse than getting into debt later. At least when you have had some years to make and save money, to learn how to budget, and have established yourself debt is a bit easier to tolerate. But, for someone right out of school to be looking at tens of thousands of dollars to pay back, the pressure has to be enormous.

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  9. Excellent topic, Bob/ A few comments on a subject close to my heart.

    I retired after a 39 year career in higher education (state school), my last five years as the head faculty academic advisor in my department. So much has changed in my time. When I was an undergraduate the state subsidized institutional costs at a rate of 70%. Then came the 80’s and a change in government attitudes at both the national and state levels. “The user pays,” became the new mantra as government disinvested in higher education at an alarming rate. The year I retired, the university was receiving around 5% of its operating budget from the state.... a drop of 65%. This is one of the fundamental reasons tuition and fees have skyrocketed. I graduated with no debt (not uncommon at the time) and in my last year as an advisor routinely worked with students who were already 30,000 dollars in debt (or more) and looking ahead to a period of graduate studies and additional debt to achieve their professional objectives. .

    Another (and in my opinion more tragic) casualty in this disinvestment is the destruction of passion. In my undergraduate days I had friends who studied history, philosophy, english literature, art history, as well as science. For many students and parents the study of the humanities is now considered a frivolous endeavor and they are understandably focused on the “employment potential” for the degree. I had many students who were miserable and marginal in their studies because they were majoring in a field “that will allow me to get a job.” They had no passion for their study-- it was simply pragmatic. I think our society will (and already is) be poorer for this trend and a price will be paid eventually. And this from a faculty member in a science department!

    My own opinion has not changed over the years. College is not for everyone. Students, parents and society will be best served if passion for study and vocation is recognized and honored. I want a passionate poet, doctor, plumber or mechanic. I hope we can find a way to recognize and foster these feelings in young people as we move into an uncertain future.

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    1. I am so happy you have added your thoughts from the academic side of things. One decision I will never understand is the gutting of education by our local, state, and federal government. Everyone talks about the importance of keeping up with the rest of the world, but refuses to invest in our youth.

      If I were a teacher or educator I would be outraged at the stupidity of the funding decisions.
      As a member of society I am severely disturbed by the hypocrisy.

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  10. When I received my degree in the late 70s, after paying my own way entirely, it was a requirement to even get in the door of the companies I interviewed with. Even though I was in high-tech sales all my career, where a degree was not really a necessity, it was and still is a requirement. I don't believe the companies I interviewed and worked for even cared about your GPA, just that you graduated. They seemed to view it as some sort of stamp that you were a go-getter and could handle corporate life. And some of these large companies are influenced by the fact that their CEOs and other higher ups are on the boards of prestigious universities, and push that link as often as possible.

    My daughter wound up going to a community college and then onto a state school in NY since her career aspirations at the time dictated a degree. In the last semester of her senior year she decided that career was not for her, and moved into the business world. She also may not have gotten a foot in the door without the degree. Was it needed to do her job well? Not really.

    Until companies take the view that everyone does not need a degree, and certain jobs do not absolutely require it, this spiral of college costs will not subside. The education institution will continue to mine it for all it is worth, and businesses will play right into it.

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    1. I'm afraid you are right. I wonder if this "degree is all important" is a vestige of our generation (and the ones before it). With those who are in their 20's and 30's put the same weight on that sheepskin when they are in a position to set policy?

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  11. I retired in 2004 from 28 years of college teaching. It was my experience that boys and girls differed in their levels of maturity and their interest in succeeding in college. I found that 18-year-old boys, in general, had no idea what a liberal arts education was, had no commitment to their own education, and lacked the maturity to complete their schoolwork with no parent around to supervise. Many of them flunked out, quit, or coasted along until they reached age 21.

    This trend with boys was completely absent in girls. I found my 18-year-old female students, in general, to be serious and committed to their education. Many of them had clear goals (though not all did). They worked hard, asked for feedback, and made sure to attend class.

    My best students were military veterans of both sexes who returned from their service totally focused on getting a college education.

    I became convinced that we in the U.S. should have a program similar to the Israelis of requiring two years of military or other public service of all students when they complete high school or otherwise reach age 18. Exceptions could be made for people with genius IQs or some other quality that would make it less useful for them to do public service for two years.

    It is definitely true that not all students should attend four-year colleges, no matter what the cost might be. Many have aptitudes for engineering, drafting, electrical, plumbing and heating, or other technical skills that would be best served in a technical school or community college. Many lack role models at home, where parents never read books or show that they value learning.

    In my career in teaching, I was most disturbed by the lack of understanding and knowledge of history and citizenship in the young people I met. I blame state departments of education for taking these important fields out of high schools or making them optional.

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    1. There are some states that are editing history or biology textbooks to remove things( facts and reality) they don't want taught to our young. Except for simply burning books one finds objectionable, I can't think of a more despicable way of handling the responsibility of education that revisionism.

      Geography is a lost subject, too. How many high school students could correctly place even half of our states in their correct positions or know where the major countries of the world are located? I would guess less than half. We seem to glory in our isolation and lack of world awareness. That isn't the students' fault, it is those who give education a bad name.

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  12. I was saddened to see Rick's discussion of how much money support our schools are NOT getting from our government .Hence, higher tuition and kids burdened with horrible loans..what an awful way to start out life.

    In 1982 I went to a 2 year Community College program for Nursing and it cost me approx. $3500 TOTAL. I came out the other side with an ADN and an RN degree, and I immediately got a good job. Why can't we make vocational training available again at affordable fees???

    Later on, I paid to go back and further my degrees, and became a Nurse Practitioner.I, for one, did not know what I wanted, other than being married and having children, when I was younger.I didn't go back to school till after I had our son and I was 28 years old. I loved studying, I had a clear goal,and I knew I would get a job when done.

    Can we bring ANY parts of this model back to our students and schools now??? I believe Community Colleges have a HUGE ROLE to fill..and that they will step up.

    We are friends with lots of very happy and prosperous plumbers, HVAC contractors and firemen. And a few of our friends, like me, did not go to college till they were older, and knew more what they wanted..

    And as much as I personally cherish Liberal Arts education,I think it is too expensive to pay tuition for that when you can't get a job afterwards,now.There are plenty of ways to become a well rounded person on one's own..TED TALKS, community classes, online courses,reading! Book clubs,etc..



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    1. Rreporter610 makes the same point in a comment above.

      The Internet has made it impossible to not get a well rounded education on all sorts of subjects if you are willing to put in the time and due diligence to find reputable sources and spend your time productively. I have take, free, online courses from Yale, MIT, Georgetown, Berkeley, and Covenant Seminary and only scratched the surface of what is available.

      BTW, TED Talks is a place that everyone with a brain should make part of his or her routine.

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  13. The questions posed on the blog today are interesting to contemplate. Having 1 grandkid in college and 2 more who will be college age in the more distant future – one is now 9 and one is almost 7 – we think about these things – including cost, etc – frequently.

    Bryan's mom and dad are very conservative with their spending and as a result, his college education was funded before he graduated from high school – he could have gone pretty much anywhere he chose and there was money to pay the tuition, etc. He is a really smart kid academically – and he did not want to go out of state. His college was funded by his parents. But because he is bright and had good grades – the state sent him a letter telling him that if he continued to maintain his grade point average (he never go anything below an A- in school), his tuition and living expenses would be paid for the entire 4 years. So providing he doesn’t totally fall apart and his grades tank – he will graduate with his degree and no debt – and a nice little nest egg to either use for grad school, or buy a house, or take a trip around the world, etc.

    His parents are not super wealthy – but they handle money well, and do not overspend, and they planned for college. Granted, they have 1 child and that makes it easier – but they have done it themselves without help from grandparents or the govt. And Bryan has done his part by being a good student.

    What will happen when the other two come along – who knows – they have 529 plans for each of them and so they too will have money for college when they reach that age – but who knows how much college will be in 10 – 12 years – and who knows if they will even want to continue in a traditional university.

    I just look at friends who have kids and grandkids in college and know that there are so many different ways to get an education – and it is not always in a linear, traditional way.

    I have a couple of degrees – earned over the years – attending 5 different colleges – I never really needed any of my education for the jobs I had – but then I never really had to earn my own living and could just work at jobs that interested me. So I was one of the fortunate ones –

    I used to wonder if I should have been doing more – but honestly, we have a sign that says – “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be”. And I think that really applies to my life.

    I learned a lot in college and in life – whatever experience you have, I don’t think is ever wasted.

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    1. Needing a college education for a job and wanting a college education for the pure joy of learning are usually two very different things, aren't they.

      I like your comment about educational choices and timing not always being linear. As several of the earlier comments point out, too often a straight, traditional path is chosen without fully thinking through the consequences or correctness for the person involved.

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  14. There are a lot of reasons why tuition has exploded in recent years including, as Rick (above) says, a lowering of support from state governments, Oregon's situation sounds drastic, from 70% to 5%? Yikes! In NY the state supplies about 36% of the SUNY budget, actually up a little bit from last year, but down a little from 20 years ago. But also, universities spend money like drunken sailors, on bloated administrations, "name-brand" professors, extravagant sports programs (only the biggest schools make money on their sports programs, and then typically only on football and basketball) and state-of-the-art cafeterias, gyms, student unions. etc. Even the community college where I volunteer (which generally does a good job) has recently gotten in trouble for "juicing" its basketball program, to the detriment of the school as a whole.

    Anyway, I agree with many of the comments above. The only thing I can add is I always recommend to young people that they go to a university with a strong and active internship program that will give them real-world experience and important contacts in their chosen field. Northeastern in Boston in one good example; but there are many others.

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    1. Internship availability: an excellent point, Tom, and something no one has mentioned. A good mentor (which is basically what an internship involves) can be priceless.

      Arizona State spends a ton of money on football, basketball, and baseball and makes money on each. But, the one that gets little press is ASU's golf program! I gather you have to be one of the top golfers in the country to even be able to try out for the team.

      ASU and maybe 50 other major colleges make money on sports. The rest do as you say - rob from other programs and disciplines to keep the sports teams in business. Why? The alumni.

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    2. I couldn't agree more with the cost of the expanding college bureaucracy. I worked at a university that built a brand new state of the art rec center (indoor pool, ice rink, racquet& basketball courts, weight room, saunas, etc) in 1980. Last year, the sent fundraising letters for a new rec center. Since when was the life span of a building 30+ years?

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    3. And how old are the library and science labs?

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  15. Unless a young person either has money to waste or knows pretty much what he wants to study, I think he should take some time off and think it over. My granddaughter got loans and spent two years at a university taking liberal arts courses and trying to figure out what she wanted to major in only to decide that she wanted to go the local community college for the two year dental hygiene course. But she is lacking some of the science courses she needed to get into the program so she is still at the university taking more courses. When she finishes she will have spent five years getting an Associates degree. What a waste.

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    1. For many young people, that time to think through the future can be important. But, as you might agree, not everyone has that foresight, so wasted time and money comes with the territory. Hopefully she will be happy when she eventually gets the degree, and that is the ultimate goal.

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  16. A young man I work with who got his degree from MSU said just one of his classes had 500 students at $1500 per student. Do the math on that.
    I think college is now a business in and of itself.

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    1. With the lack of public funding, I think many colleges have to raise prices to high levels just to stay in business. In some other developed countries a college education is considered so important that it is provided free. We are on the other end of the scale.

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  17. I got a liberal arts education at a state university in the 60s, funded entirely by my parents. Fifteen years later I went to a community college and got a degree in programming, funded entirely by myself. We helped both of our daughters with college; they were motivated and goal oriented. One of them joined the navy after two years of community college and got her four-degree while she served. She's a nuclear engineer. The other went directly from community college to pharmacy school. A few of the six boys puttered around in community colleges after high school but none of them finished at that time. One just got his degree in nursing at age 37. The others are in the trades. No one size fits all for us.

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    1. Your family's history is an excellent testament to the "one size does not fit all" premise. What a fascinating mix of paths your kids took.

      You didn't add that not too long ago you took several courses to become certified (if that is the correct term) as a mediator. Education in one form or another never stops.

      By the way, how are you enjoying the Big Island?

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  18. I completed a nursing certificate at a hospital affiliated school of nursing in 1979. 5 yrs later, I decided to complete a BSc in nursing because that's what the health care industry was asking for. I worked FT for the majority of the 5 yrs that I completed the degree, attending spring and summer sessions, taking correspondence courses, then some PT work while attending classes. 15 yrs later, the health care industry seemed more interested in warm bodies off the street vs qualified, trained staff. So when it comes to the debate between certificate and degree programs, I get a little hot under the collar. I agree with previous posts that support the need for passionate workers regardless of their education and regardless of what they're doing. Trades people can be as well-rounded as the next person. Would you rather have a polite person without a high school diploma or a rude university educated person? I'm not convinced it's all about the degree. I know that when it came to nursing, those with the highest grades didn't necessarily make the best nurses at the bedside. We all have to make a living. My neighbor often said - no education is wasted and all work is an education. Education is a privilege.

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    1. I love interacting with someone who is both good at his/her job and shows it. Pride in what one does is what I look for, not a degree or a gold star on the forehead. An example? Our regular checkout lady at the store where we do our grocery shopping has become a regular part of our week. We joke with each other and look forward to that 10-15 minutes every Thursday morning. She has people wait for her even if another checkout line has fewer people. That is the mark of a professional to me.

      This post has opened up an interesting variety of opinions and reactions, but all seem to agree that we all have to find the path that works best for us. It might involve some false starts and stops and several years, but eventually the right mix of experience and education pays off.

      Thanks, Mona.

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