What's Your Bank Account Got to Do With Teen Pregnancy?

Jeanne Sager

graduationIt's one thing that haunts us all. Will my sweet innocent little darling one day take up drugs and random sex just to dull the pain of being a teenager? Will I be the next 30-something grandma . . . despite having done everything to nurture and guide? Hold that thought. The answer is waiting for you at a college just down the street.

The way to gauge whether kids will be knocked up druggies by dropout age can now be rated by the cost of the local junior college. Too expensive for your pocketbook? Then your kids are screwed. While you furiously dig through your pockets for loose change and start a new desk-side piggy bank, let me explain.

Economists at Washington State University have discovered a correlation between teens' feeling of potential success and the tuition rates at the community college level. If the costs are relatively low, the kids see college as something attainable, even if they can't make it to a big private school, at the very least they can swing something close to home to get them off on the right foot. But if the costs are too high, they feel frustrated, hopeless, and see no reason NOT to engage in drug use and sex with multiple partners.

It's a sweeping statement, and it hardly applies to every kid out there, but it has just enough sense to it that I'm buying in. Let's put it on an even playing field. Forget the rich kids. Think about the kids in your high school who came from poor families where Mom and Dad put an emphasis on saving for their education. Now think about the teens whose parents were smoking and drinking all their money away, not putting one single cent in savings. Who saw a positive future for themselves?

Growing up in a poor, rural community, junior college wasn't just the best option for a lot of kids -- it was the only option. And in-state, in-county tuition was hard to cover, but it was better than a $30,000 a school. Most of us counted on it as a fall-back, if nothing else.

So why shouldn't you be freaking out? Because the best part of this study isn't the uncontrollable -- by parents anyway -- tuition issue. It's that the folks at Washington State said they've essentially proven the inverse, that kids who don't think they can attain a college education and the possibility of a better life, have little reason NOT to indulge in a self destructive path. With kids accounting for a quarter of the people in America living in poverty, that's A LOT of people who feel like they have nothing left to strive for. Not to mention, fewer and fewer parents are saving for college.

BUT -- big BUT coming here -- it proves that kids who know their parents are working for them, TRYING to find a way to get them into college, trying to save for their college, have a big advantage here. They know they have a reason to keep it together. So really, you can keep your kids on the straight and narrow, you just have to give them hope.

Are you saving for your kids' college?


Image via adamfarnsworth/Flickr

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