Would You Encourage Your Kids to Skip College?

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graduation cake
Flickr photo by Carbon NYC
From the moment the average American child is born, their future is mapped out by their parents:

Do well in high school. Get into a good college.

Get a good job. Find a spouse. Marriage. Kids. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So why is the New York Times suggesting we shouldn't bother with that 529 Plan?

By their estimates, "no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years," and the numbers are even more bleak for kids who graduated in the bottom half of their high school classes. Their chances of earning a four-year degree are one in five.

Coupled with the host of stories about the lack of available jobs that have been flooding the media just in time for college graduation season, and the Times may have a point.

Go to Plan B: anything but college.

Is this 1910 or 2010? And why does this almost make sense?

My hypocrisy in writing this isn't lost on me.

Just two weeks ago I transferred monies into my daughter's 529 Plan for her college savings. Just last week, I confessed to my husband how relieved I am to see him graduate from college this spring -- for our daughter's sake.

The research is clear: children whose parents pursued higher education have higher rates of success in life.

But I don't have a college degree. This despite graduating in the top fifth of my high school class. Despite being accepted early to one of the nation's top 25 colleges. Despite spending two years pursuing higher education.

What happened is simple: life. I found a job in my desired field (the same field in which I'm currently work, the same field I'd been telling my guidance counselor since sixth grade was my intended), and it required I work 60 hour weeks with irregular hours.

College fell by the wayside.

Here's where I'm supposed to confess what a mess I made of my life and why I hide my nose in college textbooks at night trying to make up for lost time.

Excuse me while I refuse to wallow.

It's a fact I regret only in the most selfish of ways -- when I run into one of my old high school classmates whose papers I edited and math homework I corrected and realize they have a degree, but I don't; when I realize I will have to talk to my daughter about college one day without a leg to stand on.

My husband's graduation is a relief -- because it means we will each represent a path for our daughter Just as my parents did -- one has her master's degree, one went the military route. Both are successful; the latter as a small business owner, the former in the medical field, one where a college degree is still very much a must have.

We can't have doctors or nurses who haven't been to college. It's a physical impossibility. But are doctor, lawyer the only "success" stories in America?

Of the 30 fastest growing professions in the country, only seven require a bachelor's degree. Is it better to be an English teacher with a degree, tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt but no job prospects or an IT director with no degree and a $80,000 starting salary?

Still parents sit their kids down daily and say "you're going to college." There are no ifs, and or buts about it.

Should we be stressing our children out about college or simply giving them it as one of a variety of options?

college, education

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JenB1983 JenB1983

I will NOT be pushing my children to attend college.  Period.  I didn't WANT to go, so I didn't.  I knew that because I had no desire to be there, I would be one of "those" students.  LOL  The ones that take 8 years to get a 4 year degree.  Instead I joined the military; and I could not be happier with my decision.  My husband also never attended college; but has 18 years in the military so we have a good life.  My dad, no college either; but he's been a police officer for 24 years, and also has a good life.  My mom....psh.  It took her 7 years to finally get through college; and she is just now starting to make as much as my dad does; 16 years after she graduated.

Julie... Julieryanevans

My parents never pushed us, never had savings plans for us, yet my brother, my sister and I all have master's degrees/law degree. We went and figured out how to pay for it, becuase we WANTED to and we were responsible for it. they helped where they could. I hope my children go to college and we do save for it, but i don't want them to feel entitled to a college education provided by us.

toria... toriandgrace

I will push my children toward college, because many times applicants for positions with degrees are choosen over those without. Better to give your child the leg up. I also feel that many that don't go to college don't end up in the 80 grand a year IT job, they end up at Walmart or a closing automobile plant. But it's the way I was raised. My father has a masters degree, my mother a bachelors, of two brothers, one has a BS one has a BS and law degree, and I'll be graduated in November with my MA.. I also love college... lol

sodapple sodapple

i would love for them to attend school and have a degree even if they don't want to.

mommy... mommyheymommy

I think colleges and universities, and those that spent the big $$$ to graduate from them, push our entire society toward thinking this is a MUST.  I realize I am swimming against society's current here, but the love of learning is the best thing we can instill in our children.  That way, college or not, they will continue to pursue knowledge their entire lives through.  Growing stagnant is the biggest threat to our children, and heck, our ADULTS!  We must be ever hungry for growth and learning - not just memorizing enough info to pass the test at some institution!

Carey... Carey2006

I plan on strongly encouraging my son to at least get his bachelor degree!!!! An education is something that NO ONE can EVER take away from you!!!!

LostT... LostTheSlipper

I won't force him. I went because everyone insisted you "need a college degree to get a good job". Yeah. Right.  I got that degree, but the job I got was only $9 an hour and they treated me like I had barely graduated 2nd grade. I applied for basically EVERYthing that I qualified for and interested me. My degree is basically worthless. I wish I had never gone. All I got from college were bills on loans I have to pay. Yay.

tazdvl tazdvl

I would love for my kids to go to college. I have had many talks with my son about the reasons he should go and if he doesn't then he should think about the military or trade school and I will do the same with my girls.

lovin... lovinangels

My oldest probably should not. She really doesn't have the capacity to make good grades and succeed in a classroom type setting. (no, I don't tell her this, but she struggles to maintain a b to c average.) so I plan on seeing if she wants to do a trade type school.


The middle one will probably attend, and I'm still getting to know the baby. You can't just generalize a group of people like a family.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being the one that empties the trash cans. 

nonmember avatar Scout's Honor

I've got to disagree.  My brother and you are rare sucess stories.  Too many can't get in the door without that degree on the resume especially in this job market where everyone is over-qualified.  That said, our kids college funds are pitiful.  I paid my way through college though so I am not fretting too much.  If they want college, working for it is the first step to wanting it.  My degree means so much to me because it was 100 percent me.  I applied by myself.  I worked for it.  I joined the military for it.  And in the end?  I found my husband and have my three babies because of it.  Wouldn't change a thing!


~Scout

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