Every month, I cringe a bit when I see the funds coming out of our account that automatically go into our children's college savings funds. It's not much when you look at the soaring price of higher education, but it feels like a lot when there are so many other things to pay for in our daily lives, and things I would much rather spend money on than their college education.
It's not that I don't value education; in fact, there are few things I value more. However, I also loathe the attitude that college is just an expected for kids, and that their parents will pay for it. Then we see the droves who have no appreciation for the experience, who party all night, and see classes an optional activity. Most may successfully plod their way through, but I question how many truly appreciate it and embrace all the opportunities a college educations presents, especially when they don't work for it.
While I'm hopefully raising them to value education too, I know all too well how easy it is to throw that out the window at the first frat house for a beer bong. Maybe because I did just that. I wouldn't say I wasted my college education, but to say I fully applied myself would be a big stretch ... and I even paid for part of my own education. So to have it just handed to you on a silver platter ... I'm not convinced that it's going to be the best thing I can provide for my kids.
Then there are studies that say college isn't even worth the price. So I question why then am I scrimping to pay for something that may or may not pay off so well when there are other, very valuable things I could be doing for my children with that money, such as:
Sleep Away Camp
Studies have shown the lifelong benefits of sleep away camps. They offer independence, adventure, and opportunities for kids to learn to do for themselves in a safe environment. Of course, all that doesn't come without a price.
There's no better way to learn about the world than to travel and see it firsthand. When I imagine the trips we could take with the money we save for college, I have a hard time not cashing it in and booking plane tickets.
From sports to art and music lessons to tutors and perhaps even private schools, instilling that passion for learning and the arts early is so important, but often we have to skip or eliminate opportunities because they're expensive. Do we forgo early opportunities that could be valuable because we're so focused on saving for the future?
An Advanced Degree
If they prove themselves in college, I'd much rather help them pay for an advanced degree to help keep debt down. At that point I'd be more confident they would appreciate and embrace it.
Of course, in an ideal, cash-flowing world, we'd all be able to provide all of these things for our children. For most of us, however, that's not our reality, so we have to pick and choose. Most of us choose college when it comes down to it because that's what it feels like we need to do, and we don't want our children to forego higher education because they can't pay for it. So yes, my husband and I will keep saving for it when we can, but it won't be without reservation.
Do you save for your children's college education? What things are most important for you to provide for your children?
Image via Philip Brewer/Flickr