I was appalled. At what point in time did kids become so entitled that they EXPECTED their parents to pay their way through college? When did this become acceptable?
I grew up in a closely knit, hard working family. My parents both held “blue collar” jobs and worked their bums off so that my sister and I could grow up with many amenities that they did not have growing up. My dad literally worked in the fields as a child, and my mom came from a similar background. They both really emphasized to us that it was important to value education and do well in school so that we could earn our way into better futures and that we could be whatever we wanted in life, but we had to work for it.
Please note what I said: we had to earn our way.
To this day, I think it was one of the most valuable lessons my parents taught me.
By the time I got to high school, I knew that I had to work hard so that I could earn a scholarship to pay my own way through college. I never even EXPECTED my parents to pay for it. I knew that my parents did not have the financial means to finance a college education, and I always intended to pay for it myself.
With that in mind, I worked REALLY hard in high school to maintain good grades so that I could get a scholarship to pay my own way. I went to my guidance counselor at school and asked her for every resource possible to invest in higher education. Just in case I had to join the military, I also opted for Junior ROTC in high school to prepare myself should I have to join up to cover the expenses. I applied for EVERY scholarship possible, and I applied for student financial aid just in case. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be offered and wanted to ensure that I had all of my bases covered. I never expected for my parents to chip in much because I knew that there was no way for them to pay for it.
Fortunately, I did receive scholarships.
Back then, TOPS didn’t exist. However, I was a recipient of the Louisiana Honors Scholarship, which covered my tuition, and I received an additional scholarship from my college, which covered most of my room and board. The remaining balance of my expenses I had in college (gas, books, car insurance) were covered by a federal student loan and mall jobs, waiting tables, and work study. My parents helped how they could, by sending me groceries, providing me with health care, and some funds for other necessities. At one point, I lost my scholarships for a semester. (Too much fun and a death in the family caused me to drop below my grade expectations.) After a one semester period where I worked really hard to bring my grades back up, I got my scholarships back. During that time, I paid for the semester with additional student loans. The lesson I learned: you have to EARN your success and EARN your way.
Losing my scholarships proved to me that I wasn’t entitled to anything.
My husband was in a similar situation. One of three kids, his parents offered to pay for one semester of college, and if he maintained good grades, they would offer up continued assistance. Except he didn’t follow his end of the bargain, and he wound up having to pay his own way. When he went that route, he gained a greater understanding for what the cost of higher education was and how hard he would have to work to pay for it.
While we were in college, we both worked. I held a work study job (which I LOVED) along with two mall jobs and a summer of waiting tables. My husband worked at a local hospital. I managed to graduate in four years, with a debt owed to the federal government for loans I had taken out, and he had student loans as well.
After realizing we both paid for our higher education ourselves, we agreed that we would expect the same from our child.
When our son graduates from high school, he will be about to turn 18; therefore, he will be an adult. As an adult, he is legally responsible for himself. He will have the right to vote and the right to join the military should he wish. That being said, if he desires to go to college (which I hope is the case!), he will have our full emotional and educational support, and some financial support, but not 100%. Right now, though, our main concern is to give him love and support him while also providing the main necessities: a roof over his head, a loving home, food in his belly, and proper health care. When the time comes for college, he can take out loans should he wish. If he does well, then we will help him pay them off. If he has too much fun and flunks out, well, he can pay for it. And he will learn the value of a dollar AND a higher education.
According to College Board, the 2014 cost for a college education is approximately $36,000 for 4 years. That is just for tuition. That does not include room & board, books, and other incidentals that would be incurred. That is right now, in 2014. Compared to when I was in college 15 years ago, the cost of higher education has increased by nearly 40%. Fifteen years from now, my son will be old enough to start college. If we follow the 38% number, at which tuition costs have risen since then, the average cost of an education at a public state college as an in-state resident will be approximately $50K for a 4 year college education at a college like LSU or even my alma mater, Northwestern State. That does not factor in an education at a private college or if he choose to go out of state, which increases the expenses by another 30-50%.
My point is this: college is not a right. It is a luxury. Not every high school graduate will make it to college or make it through. Rather than handing over an experience and an education to my son as if he were entitled to it, we plan on letting him EARN the experience and luxury of attending college should he wish to invest in himself.