Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Frugal Workshop Podcast #6 ~ Is College for Everyone? Yes or No?

Here is the transcript of Podcast #6 for all of my readers who prefer this format. 

Good morning and welcome to the sixth podcast of the Frugal Workshop blog. I'm your host, Belinda Richardson and I want to welcome you and all of my readers from Frugal Workshop. I'm so glad you decided to join us.

Today’s topic is going to be about college.

Back when I was growing up it was implied that college was the sure fire road to success. And that was true for my daughter’s generation while they were growing up.

But is the reality of that true?

How many people do you know that have a college degree, but don’t have adequate employment or don’t use it to earn a living? 

Bailey’s tongue in cheek contribution:

Girls go to college to get more knowledge;
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

This week I was shopping at Target when 
I saw someone I knew from back when our children (her granddaughter) were in grade school. We were catching up on their lives when she mentioned that her granddaughter had left home for college in 2016, studied for 1.5 years and quit. She didn’t return home, but found gainful employment and still lives there.

My own daughter went to the local community college in 2016, earned her two year degree, and decided to become an entrepreneur and now owns her own business.

The class of 2016 has been interesting for me to watch as they’ve grown up over the years. I watched them in grade school and heard teachers say they didn’t give them homework because they didn’t want the parents doing it for them. 

To my surprise, I watched the ‘no homework’ mentality continue through middle school and most of high school for my daughter’s class. She rarely, if ever, came home with work and if she did it was of her own volition or because she missed a few days.

Other parents I spoke with said that their children never came home with any work either. I feel that this was a complete disservice to the students seeking to go on to college as it did not prepare them for the workload of college classes.

The high school here really presents the idea of college for all students and even more so when the state of Tennessee began to offer free college for two years starting with the class of 2015.

My own daughter originally wanted to go to New York for college, but over the years changed her mind to finally deciding on a local two year college for free. I think she made the best choice for herself.

She started college right out of high school and even though not everyone is ready to go to college at that time, she was. However, she had a huge class load and was stressed out to the point that she was not enjoying any of her classes.

Out of all the classes she took in high school, even some college prep courses, there was only one class that she felt prepared her for college, and she would tell you that one wasn’t enough.

College can be tough and a lot of hard work and I don’t feel that the school system here prepares students for college life. The no homework rule is a good example of that. Why would you pressure students to go to college, but not prepare them for the experience that it will be for them?

Because Tennessee was offering free college for every high school graduate the school system did their best to sign up all of their graduating seniors. I knew in my heart that some of them were not college material and sure enough many of them crashed and burned in September 2016 as a result.

What about students going to college who end up with student loan debt like we talked about last week? In Tennessee high schools are supposed to teach students one financial literacy class, but my own daughter’s Finance class was a joke taught by one of the gym teachers who didn’t care or take time to prepare for his class.

Are we seriously pressuring students to go to college, take on student loan debt, and not giving them the skills to pay it off in a timely manner? Why do we teach them what a mitochondria does, but not how to invest their money?

Since that time I have heard the stories of other students who didn’t make it in college. One of my daughter’s friends graduated from the two year college with her and went on to a four year college only to quit because he was offered a great job.

Another student thought community college was beneath her and stuck her nose up at the fact that my daughter and her other friend were going to the local community college for FREE. This friend was already in student loan debt in her freshman year of college even though she could have went for free also. Today she has student loan debt but no degree.

Some of you may remember a lady who used to post on the old AOL tightwad message boards. She was angry over the fact that she had invested in a college education, but was still unable to find gainful employment.

The stories of my daughter’s classmates has been interesting to watch and that brings up the topic of this podcast.

So the big question here is college for everyone?

I think this topic is a very personal decision, which requires taking all sorts of things into consideration. Does this person need to go to work and earn a living right out of high school? Many students need to do this to help and support their birth family or their own family.

They need to ask themselves several questions.

Is College worth the investment?

College costs have risen over the years to the point where it can be a very expensive investment that will take years to see a pay off. Will people see a good return on their investment even if it’s not a STEAM degree?

Unfortunately, there are many people out in the world with a college degree who have a low paying job and are saddled with student loan debt. Some of these people do not want the government to bail them out either because they made the choice to go to college and take on the debt.

Can the time spent earning a college degree be put to better use?

There are plenty of jobs out there where it makes more sense to immediately go to work because on the job training and experience is valuable. This will allow those who choose this path to have four years of valuable job experience under their belt. And just think of the money they’ll have earned and hopefully saved in the four years while their peers were in college.

Are there plenty of jobs available that don’t require a college degree?

Yes, but if that is not your cup of tea you can start your own business. My own father didn’t graduate high school, but did end up going to trade school and became an electrician. When an auto accident ended his career he started his own business and supported a family of five on the income from that business.

There are high paying jobs out there that do not require a bachelor's degree. Jobs such as Electrician, Lineman, Postmaster, Web Developer, Plumber, Paralegal, Construction Workers and Brick Layers.

My brother, who also did not graduate high school, makes a great living as a bricklayer. He runs his own business, makes his own hours, and has been richly rewarded as a result. He is a very hard worker too, which I know is part of the reason for his success.

Not everyone is college material.

Unfortunately, this is true. Where I’ve substituted I’ve seen students who were not college material. I’ve consoled students who were told by a teacher that they were not college material. It’s a hard truth to face, but it’s true. Are we doing those students a disservice when we pressure them to go to college? Are we setting them up for failure?

When I graduated high school in 1985 I went to the local community college, but I dropped out after the first year. After a divorce in the fall of 1999 I went back to college as a non-traditional student.

In May of 2004 I earned my two-year college degree. After earning that degree, I went on to finish my four year degree and graduated in December 2007 with my Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Earning those degrees and taking classes at that stage in my life was a deeply moving and rewarding experience that I would not have traded for anything. That feeling of reward and value was something that I wasn't even looking for. It was a great experience for me and made me realize that not everyone is ready to go to college after high school. Sometimes it might take them a while to get there and reap the rewards that come with an education.

And that reminds me of something my friend Anna taught me over the years. You don’t need to go to college to continue to educate yourself. There are plenty of classes you can take right now just for the pure enjoyment of learning.

Has my college degree served me well? It has value to me as a wonderful learning experience. I learned more during those years than I remember from my first education. It has not helped me financially, but I believe that is because of the rural area we live in. My brother assures me I could find a great job if I moved back to Illinois.

I do have student loan debt though, so there is that. I place a high value on a college education, but I know it is not for everyone. As I said earlier, I think it is up to each individual to decide for him or herself and to consider all these things mentioned here and even more.

Ultimately, what’s most important is that you find a career or vocation that you really enjoy because, when you’re passionate about what you do, the money will come. It’s what my brother in law taught me. He didn’t finish high school, but went to work for Auto Zone and took classes until he finally became a certified mechanic and now makes a great living doing what he loves with no college degree.
In Conclusion

There are a lot of aspects regarding college and I have barely scratched the surface here. I hope that this podcast has been helpful to you and I want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to listen (read).

~ Living within our Means ~
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  1. That is so hurtful to tell a student he or she is not college material. Teachers can be stupid.

    1. This particular teacher can sometimes come across as mean. She accused a small group of girls of wanting to cheat one time and I knew that NOT to be true of at least one of the girls. She doesn't know them as well as she thought she did.

      This particular student she told wasn't college material was very hurt by her saying that, so I tried to console him as best I could.

  2. That teacher crushed a heart and an opportunity. stupid teacher.

    1. Yes, that student was crushed over what she said to him.

  3. I don't think college is necessarily the right path for everyone, and certainly not right out of high school.

    I'm also shocked that your schools don't have homework. Our schools are the opposite, and have too much homework. I certainly wish they had less, and there is a happy medium in preparation for high school/college, and just overburdening middle & high schoolers.

    1. I agree that college isn't necessarily the right path for everyone. I know many schools have too much homework. They are in school all day long and is it fair to make them wok all night long on homework? Like you say, I think there is a happy medium in there somewhere.

  4. One thing you don't address: Ultimately, the purpose of a college education is to get a higher education, not to learn a social function. Education for the sake of education is a great thing. Yes, there are those who acquire ridiculous amounts of debt in the process, which is silly. As you well know, there are many ways to do this without drowning in debt. I find it interesting that so many people discount the private colleges, claiming they are too expensive. The irony is that these schools, especially the smaller ones, have oodles of money they can give as grants, which is money that can be used for things other than tuition, ie: room and board, and they can give it beyond FAFSA. As for graduate school, being a graduate student is, at many schools, a paid position, via fellowships or assistantships. Oh, it's not a lot of money, mind you, but it's a short period of time, after all. Also, if you are looking at college debt amounts, you may find that a lot of those numbers refer to people with higher degrees, ie, MD's, in which case, their earning potential upon receiving those degrees is much higher than their debt. But, for a Bachelor's degree, I think the debt scare is highly exaggerated. There is no reason to incur huge debts for a Bachelor's degree.
    Yes, some schools are very expensive, and they do not have generous financial aid departments. I was accepted at one such school, attracted by its "brand name." Obviously, it was not the school for me, so I chose another. As years went on, I realized that I applied to that school because I was drawn by its name. But, the school I chose was superior, those lesser known by those who, well, don't know higher education. My education was stellar at my chosen school. It served me well. Interestingly enough, upon graduation, I wound up working in a field which had little to do with my major. I landed the job because my degree showed the hiring manager that I could think and write.
    You know, the choice/selection of college does, in fact, begins to put into practice the type of critical thinking that one should learn to hone in college, that is, if it is a good school, regardless of where one goes, and what one studies.
    Sure, not everybody desires to go to college, and that is great for them. But I hate the idea of scaring potential students away from furthering their educations by inflated stories about inflated costs.
    (Interestingly enough, my just-graduated-senior had me chortling with joy when he earned D's in H.S. Enter our dual enrollment program at the CC, and the kid tests into college level courses, earning "A's." He loved the college environment as much as he hated H.S. So, as much as I tried to tell him there is no comparison between H.S. and college, he didn't believe me until he actually sat in a class himself.)

    1. Such a great comment, Meg and excellent points you've made here. Thank you. I agree with the education for the sake of education. That is the point I was trying to make when I spoke about my own education. I loved what I was learning and it was so rewarding for me, all money/job talk aside. Thank you so much for your contribution. :)

  5. Not everyone is ready for college right after high school. And there are paths to good paying jobs without having a 4 year college degree.

    As for me, college education opened many opportunities. The key is to minimize borrowing too much. I’m very fortunate to not have any student loans. That really helped me because it allowed me to choose the career I love, without choosing a career solely based on the pay check.

    1. That is so great, Nil. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. It helps to show how many different paths there are to choose from.

  6. Belinda,
    In this post, you have done a GREAT SERVICE to your readers and they can share this with others. Your words are very true and well delivered.
    THANK YOU for all you do for your readers.
    You are certainly one wise woman.

    Pam in Knoxville

    1. Thank you so much, Pam. You are always so sweet to me. :)

  7. I would have been a student all of my life and earned endless PhD's. Some have done that, hard as it is to believe.

    I taught two siblings whose mother was on death row for many years, but a governor chose to pardon her. The siblings could not manage to reconcile with the pardoned mother. One of the siblings chose a two-year community college to earn a high-paying and hard-labor job. The other chose a 4-year university and earns less.are the

    Then there are college drop-outs such as Bill Gates and those who did not do well in school like Sir Winston of W W II. Do not forget President Grant who expected to teach math at West Point or President Lincoln, who was deserted as a boy by his father after his mother died.

    Choosing wisely and doing our best is my answer.

    1. That's a great position, Anna. Choosing wisely and doing our best. You were the Anna I mentioned in the Podcast. You taught me about being a lifelong student. I love that.

    2. During my last child's junior-high Sunday school years, her teacher was USA's author, John Grisham's college dorm roomie. Grisham then spent 3 years at 'Ole Miss earning a law degree. Elsewhere, Grisham's roomie studied to be a vet.

      John Grisham left law and his roomie switched from being a vet to another scientific profession. Both spent years not happy in first chosen profession.

      Any of us might switch job/profession more than once until finding that golden ring, which might not include a handsome salary but a happy life. Grisham's dream to play professional baseball was never to be, but he has spent millions building fields/complexes for Little Leaguers. Loves promoting Little Leaguers. Changed his mind about being an attorney to encouraging young boys to play ball.

      John Grisham and his college roomie successfully changed their minds and professions, AND did Grisham ever fail with his first book, going from MS library to MS library requesting his A TIME TO KILL be placed on the library shelves. Most Grisham readers now refer to A TIME TO KILL as favorite book.

      Be a lifelong reader.

      -memphis metro

    3. What a wonderful contribution to this blog post, Anna. Thank you. How neat that these two were able to switch out what they wanted to do and found a happier life in the process. I love that John Grisham is building fields for Little Leagues. That is so sweet. :)

      On a side note, recently I was able to pick up a John Grisham book for mom at McKay's. She absolutely loved it, so I'm adding him to her list of favorite authors to pick up as I find them.

  8. I earned my RN degree at a two year college and it served me very well for over 30 years. No college debt. I never understood why social workers needed a four year degree and most of them I knew, seemed to be struggling financially. It just doesn't make sense, does it? I'm all for the two year programs!

    1. That is wonderful, Penny. I am right there with you on the two year degree and wished I had stopped at two years. Then I wouldn't have any student loan debt.


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