Are We Doing Our Kids a Disservice By Letting Them Go To College?

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For this small town girl, getting away to college, experiencing life on my own, living in the dorms, learning self discipline, all while getting a great education to catapult me into life, was the way to go. The experience was so magical and amazing I think any and every kid needs to experience it.


The cost of my education at a private college was $8,000 a year to live on campus. I lived on campus for just 2 years, so the last 2 years were much cheaper. The cost of education at that same school 20 years later, $35,000.

That’s fine you say, they have scholarships, loans, grants, loans, work study and of course loans. Well, here’s the news. You know all those unclaimed scholarships of the the 90’s and and early 2000’s? Well, with the cost of education going up, they are no longer unclaimed. Even if you work harder and do only the essay ones, also all claimed.

My daughter has applied for over 100 scholarships and hasn’t received one. As a matter of fact, on one of them in the email stating that she had not received the scholarship, it also stated she was one in 400,000 that had applied for that scholarship. (also keep in mind she is applying for anything from $10-$5000)

So where does that leave the parents and the kids?

Good question. If you have the answer, please post it here!!!!  I’m not kidding.

There are options. My daughter applied to 3 schools, all private (we will get to the public in a minute). Each financial package was nearly the same. If you make over $40,000 or $50,000 a year you are considered able to pay for your child’s education. But they do help you “pay” for it.

Each package we received had a loan for the student, and 2 loans the parents can take out and the final amount that you can then “afford” to pay after all the loans.

I called the schools and I started asking this question.  How are kids paying for college? Not the poor kids or the rich kids, but the middle class Americans?  Here is what I have heard ::

  • Parents are mortgaging their houses
  • Some want the experience so bad they are just taking out loans and will deal with it later.

Sorry while I pick my jaw up off the ground……hearing it once was bad enough, writing it out for all to see, makes me cringe all over again.

As parents we want the best for our kids and we never want them to miss out. EVER!  We hate to say no, sometimes we don’t know how to say no.

My daughter agreed to take out some loans and put cash down so she could go. Even with her very small contribution, she would still come out with $20,000 in debt. I said to her, “We are not going to deal with it later, we are going to deal with it RIGHT now!”

It’s hard to convince an 18 year old that they don’t want that much in loans after graduation. If I don’t educate my daughter on the issue, no one will, because the schools clearly said “they do what they can to get in, they deal with it later.”

Let’s look at the state schools around here. Each of them are about $25,000 a year. After what the private schools offered us, it would have only been $5000 a year savings to do public. Still a lot to pay.

I’ve been hearing that the next big bubble to burst is going to be the school loan bubble. Education is so expensive that students are taking out astronomical loans. The rates are horribly high, there are origination fees on some of them and even if you ever file for bankruptcy years down the road, these loans never go away. You have to pay them. If you can’t and you defer, they grow, but just because you aren’t paying doesn’t mean the interest stops accruing. Kids graduate,they can’t find jobs and they are locked into a life of debt. Some loans you can take up to 25 years to pay off, that’s probably because some of the lending institutions allow you to take up to $275,000 in loans.

I wanted my daughter to experience college the way I did. I pushed hard for it and in the end it’s not the wisest thing we can do as a family or to our child.

Instead for her first year she is going to do community college. (I still cringe when I say that.) I know community college is not bad and it’s just the Gen Eds she is getting out of the way, but I just never thought she would have to do school that way. But better to be wise now than over our heads in debt later.

UPDATE :: Just found we can send our daughter to a local community college for free if she has a 3.5 GPA or better.

So the question comes to this:: Are we doing our kids a disservice by letting them go to college?  That question mostly goes out to the parents that can’t pay, yet let their kids go anyways.

Works for Me





  1. I honestly don’t know what I would advise someone to do regarding college these days. Thankfully, higher education is a question that parents of felines never have to face!

    I went to a private university and came out with about $10,000 in debt, which I had totally paid off less than 3 years after graduation, thanks to a death in the family (and the small inheritance that came with it) as well as some help from my parents. On top of that, college ate up the $40K my parents had saved for me, as well as costing them a pretty penny to boot.

    I still wonder if it was worth it. I mean… I suppose on a personal level it was, because, generous as my parents were with my financially, they’re still totally crazy, and at least I got 4 years of free therapy at the student counseling center out of the deal! Educationally speaking… who knows.

    And my education was a classic liberal arts degree… with a major in music – making me, oh, so employable. I actually did end up running a music school… But look at the degrees kids get today. “Specialized” doesn’t begin to describe it. It’s hard to even call it an “education”, as it much more resembles some sort of white collar trade program. So what do you do if you declare your incredibly specific concentration in say “visual marketing with a minor in print ads”, and rack up a ton of debt, only to later discover that you hate the field and/or can’t find a job?

    It’s enough to make you wonder what would happen if you skipped college altogether, and instead used the money to help your kid open their own business. I’m not really suggesting that, it just seems like the options are not really all that appealing these days.

  2. I love the idea of funding a kids business. If you have that kid, that has that dream I think that is just as good of an investment as a degree.

  3. I think it is crucial to be able to go to college if you are a seriously academic type of person, the kind who will (a) do well on standardized tests and high school grades and thereby possibly qualify for merit scholarships, (b) work very hard at college, and (c) likely be unhappy in most professions that can be done without a college degree. I am this type of person, and two decades ago my education at an excellent and expensive university was paid approximately 1/7 by merit-based scholarship, 1/3 by inheritance from my grandmother, and the rest by my parents. (I worked part-time during school and full-time during summers, but my earnings only covered incidental expenses like clothing.) Because of my parents’ low debt, my brother and I did not qualify for need-based aid even when we were in college simultaneously and our combined tuitions after scholarships were nearly equal to our parents’ income! Still, I think it was worth the money FOR US, and I’m very very grateful that my parents were willing to live frugally throughout our childhood and college years to accumulate savings and then spend them on our education.

    However, the popular idea these days that EVERYBODY should go straight from high school to 4 years of full-time college deserves reconsideration. Not every kid is going to make the most of that opportunity. Not every career truly requires a bachelor’s. (A good example is computer programming. Many of my friends dropped out after 2-3 years as CS majors but have great careers using the skills they learned in that time. I know many people who are self-taught in other fields, especially arts, who never went to college at all yet are quite successful.) With everybody trying to go to college, demand for scholarships is so high that only the top achievers get them.

    It’s worth considering other options like community college, vo-tech programs, or working for a few years to clarify your interests and save some money before applying to colleges. One of my cousins used her inheritance from our grandmother to buy a few horses and open a riding school (originally using her parents’ land and barn) and she has been pretty successful; as a high school student she was only a bit above average and feeling burned out on school, so I doubt she would have done well in college. Her brother spent a few years delivering pizzas and letting Grandma’s money earn interest, and then when he realized he wanted to be an environmental attorney, THEN he went to college and law school. I think Grandma would be proud of all of us. 🙂

    I wrote about my thoughts on debt and the value of education in Things I Learned from My Dad and Starting with Something and The Path at the End of the Road.

  4. Very well put Becca. I too believe that there is a different path for everyone. I love that everyone used the inheritance is such positive life changing ways. That’s exactly what an inheritance is for.

  5. I think it is a disservice to force any child to go to college. When I got out of highschool, I had 50k sitting there ready to send me into degree land. However, I hated school. I hated the classrooms, I hated learning about things that no human ever finds usefull in real life situations, and I hated sitting around with a bunch of prim and prissy people all trying to outdo each other’s recollection of useless knowledge. However, I found myself under increasing pressure to attend, so I did reluctantly. As I figured, I hated it. Talk about 13th grade….. The popularity contest was still ongoing. I only learned things from classes that I was interested in. Still haven’t figured out where philosophy comes in to play.

    I dropped out of college, with no debt, but with a renewed hatred for classroom settings. So yes, I think it is a disservice to force a kid to go to college, however, I think there is one greater disservice mostly cloaked in this mess. It isn’t how many kids do or do not, or will or will not go to college, or even the cost. It is the amount of jobs, professions, careers, whatever out there that require a college degree to be hired. I’ve had this debate with many people, and yet, I still cannot understand how having a college degree makes one a better pilot. I cannot understand how having a college degree makes one a better RHVAC technician. Yet, employers continually seek out in larger and larger numbers, people with degrees. Someone explain to me how an Asian Philosophy class or college level physical education class will lead to one better being able to handle an emergency situation at 35,000 ft? Is there really an advantage held by a college educated manager fresh on the streets over a manager that has worked their way up through a company? I find it to be nothing more than a money racket. I feel that this country is on the fast track to failure if we cannot accept an RHVAC technician without expecting them to be college educated. What kind of elitists are we becoming now that our companies cannot handle hiring even an extremely competent and well trained cargo pilot without that pilot having a college degree?

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I see a strong need for a college level education for doctors, lawyers, nurses, geologists, etc. But for an RHVAC tech? Nah, to me it is just another way for overly expensive universities to keep reaching deeper and deeper into our childrens pockets. Think about it, I would venture to bet that many universities pour lots of dough into literature and training for guidance counselors to pound college into high school kids’ heads. I mean, right from the get-go, you have an entire nation of youths over a barrel if you play the cards right. A) you have everyone buffaloed into thinking college is the only route…..B) You charge tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to young adults going into these colleges…….C) You have most if not many of the employers that offer decent wages in this country behind you in requiring a degree from prospective employees, eventhough they don’t need it to perform well at said profession or job. What better entity is there to be today besides a university? Maybe an oil company, but that’s it. Add the tuitions on top of the monies you pull in from sports that you don’t use to pay the athletes, and you see the money racket begin to appear behind all of the fog. Capitalism at its finest err, I mean maybe worst.

    As for the professions that do require extensive study and a degree, it’s time to cut down on the class load. We can all agree that by the age of 18 every one of us know that if you sit and eat a twinkie every hour, you are going to end up being overweight. So where does the need for physical education come into play in a college environment? Again, I believe it is a money racket in this case as well. Soon, you won’t be able to find a job serving hot-dogs without having a degree. When did being a common man or woman become such a sin? When did our country become full of such elitist ideas?

    Now again, I do not find having a degree a bad thing. Congratulations if you have one, it isn’t easy. However, there is not a need to require degrees for jobs or professions that can be learned through experience or trade schools. Let’s keep universities there for the professions that truly require college courses to be proficient at. Again, such as a doctor, lawyer, scientist, etc. Let’s not keep convincing our children that they are stupid til that little piece of framed, heavy guage paper says they aren’t. And finally, if we need all of these classes and experiences to be successful in life as the universities, employers, and school boards across the country preach, then let’s start making them avaiable in the public school systems and offer high school students a choice of paths earlier on.

  6. Tiffany Kerns says

    I have followed your blog for over a year now. Love this topic and agree that although I would love to have my kids experience what my husband and i did at college. Can’t guarantee that I see it worth the $$$. My husband works for a small Christian University outside of Portland and one of the benefits of employment is tuition remission for our kiddos. A HUGE perk. If you are at all interested in a part time job, it might make sense to look at a place like that. The wages are secondary when you consider the financial savings for college. It might benefit your son at least 🙂

  7. That is a great tip, thank you.


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