Heading off to college is a great adventure for many young people. I know it was for me so many years ago. It was my first time living on my own, 6 hours from my parents. I was very fortunate that my chosen school only cost a few thousand dollars a year for tuition. I was able to work full time and pay as I went. The only student debt I managed to accrue was because I was stupid with my credit card.
College is a strategic inflection point for many young people. It is a time when many don’t get good council about money. A degree can take you far, but it can also become an anchor around your neck. Here are a few things to think about when you are entering college.
Everyone is supposed to go to college right? But if you think about your student debt as an investment you can determine if it is right for you. I can’t tell you how many young people I have worked with who didn’t need to go to college. They trained for years only to discover they didn’t like their chosen career. Now they have the student debt, but not the great job to go with it. We are told in the scripture how dangerous it is to pursue wealth (1 tim 6:6-10), but it is foolish to pursue and expensive degree without the ability to pay it back the student debt. Jesus told us to count the cost of following him and we should count the cost of our education decisions as well.
Many people consider their college years a right of passage, and to be sure many of us did our greatest growing and met our best friends and even our spouses (ring by spring of your money back) during these years. To be sure these years are very special, but that doesn’t mean you must pay a fortune to have these experiences. I don’t mind if people need time to “find themselves” and discover who they are, but it is foolishness to assume this must be done in a traditional college environment and can’t be done elsewhere.
A few years ago there was a push to get for-profit colleges to prove that students would be able to make money in the career of their chosen field. I don’t know why this isn’t a test for everyone. When you are signing up for student aid they have you work through a lot of financial worksheets. I don’t recall ever being asked if my chosen career path would provide enough money to pay back my loans. Maybe they don’t want you to ask that question. (I’ll be over here in my tinfoil hat)
I have talked with many recent grads. I ask them how they intend to pay off the student debt, which is larger than my mortgage, with a job that only pays $40k a year. This isn’t the barista job that they took because they couldn’t get employment in their field. This is the job in their chosen field. It is as if this thought has never occurred to them. Or worse yet, their thought is that someone else should pay it off because they are working in a “public” field.
One should not complain when what fulfills your heart doesn’t fulfill your wallet.
When I started looking into colleges to become a pastor my advisers tried to talk me into schools costing $40k a year. (in 1997) I decided to go a small bible college where I could learn by doing just as much as I would learn in the class room. I took an internship in the youth department and I read all I could get my hands on.
There are fields where you can get your hands on experience without going to a traditional university and in some cases maybe you should. After all once you have your first job or two on your resume no one cares where you went to school. (That is what hiring managers tell me in the tech field anyway)
Do you think I am full crap or do I have a good point? Let me know in comments below.
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