Friday, June 03, 2016

Costs of Tuition (Money or Otherwise)

I asked a question about college tuition on FB, today, because I listened to a story on NPR about tuition costs. The story was about students who are making tuition payments just fine, but are suffering because they have to work while going to school. Some only eat two meals a day and live in very dumpy places. Some have stress. This, according to the story, is a travesty, because students are already burdened with high tuition costs.

So, I asked my friends on FB about their college experiences --how did they pay for college? What did they do to finance it? Answers were incredibly varied. Some:

*worked full time or part time all year round
*worked just in the summers
*worked for the university which then paid for some tuition
*went to a university where their parents worked and got free tuition
*lived with parents
*were married and supported each others
*had scholarships and grants
*had work stipends
*went to school only when they had the money
*were sponsored by employment
*had parents who paid for it all
*took out student loans
*graduated without debt
*graduated with a little debt
*graduated with much debt

Most people had a variety that included working, scholarships, grants, time-off, and living in those dumpy places. Most of the people who shared their experiences did not regret any of it, either. They appreciated their education.

I have strong opinions about higher education. But before I get to that, here's my scenario. 

I worked all through high school and college. The only time I didn't have a job was my first semester of college and my senior year of college (I'll explain that later). My parents paid for my first year of tuition and housing. I paid for books, utilities, and food. After my first year, I was on my own. I had one student load for my sophomore year tuition, but I was working and paid for housing, fees, books, utilities, food, etc. with money I made from working.

My jobs in school included: accompanying vocal lessons, working on campus for a summer, working at a family camp for two summers, working at the on-campus office for the family camp for a year.

Halfway through my sophomore year, I married. My husband had a full tuition scholarship, and we applied for grants (we got them!). We both worked full time in the summers and part time during the school year. Our senior year, my husband worked full time (also going to school full time). His pay was enough that it covered all our expenses, and since I was pregnant, I quit working so I could focus on school. When we both graduated (the same week we had our first baby), we only had my one student loan from my sophomore year. It was only $3500. We paid that off within a decade (it was like $50 a month or something and not high on our priority list to pay off).

Then my brilliant husband was accepted to UPenn's Wharton EMBA program. Since it's the best business school in the world (I'm not even kidding), it was expensive. We ended up paying for all of it ourselves. We call it our "second mortgage" because it was about $200,000. It is literally another mortgage. It will take us a bit of time to pay it off. But we don't regret his MBA for a second. It was one of those experiences that was worth the cost! We also knew what we were getting into, since he didn't go back to school until we had been married for 10 years.

Now for my opinions about the NPR story and higher education! 

Well, I have many, and people won't agree with all of them, but I see higher education this way:

*Higher education is a good, good thing. I say this because I love education, and I believe we should all be educating ourselves and learning new things all the time. "The glory of God is intelligence!" We are here to learn and grow, and we can't do that if we ignore all the opportunities for schooling around us. But learning doesn't always equate formal schooling.

*Not everyone needs to go to university. Vocational school is still higher education. Associates degrees are still higher education. Some people are happier choosing a career and then finding the education to make that career happen, rather than going to a university and trying to find a career to fit their education. It's also less expensive and takes less time!

*Not everyone has to go to an Ivy League school to be given a top-rate education. Example: I chose a private religious university. Because of this, my tuition was incredibly low, but the education I received was very, very good! People also need to look at the career vs. cost ratio: if you're taking out a $500,000 loan to become a school teacher, something is seriously wrong. Unless you're getting a teaching job that pays like a doctor, you might want to look at getting a teaching education somewhere more affordable!

*The more you work for something, the more you value it. I know some people appreciate their parents footing their schooling bill, and I know some parents really want to foot the bill. But I can tell you that when you have to work hard, save, sacrifice, and go without in order to attain something of value, the end result is much more satisfying!

*Working while going to school isn't annoying --it's a blessing. I know some people have the philosophy that students shouldn't work --that schoolwork should be their work. I don't agree. I believe that I got better grades in school and in college because I was working another job. I had to manage my time better. I had to say no to social things that could interfere with both schooling and work. The times I didn't do as well in school were usually the times when I wasn't organizing a difficult schedule. And what is school work at the university level attempting to give us? Knowledge to implement in a future job. If we're going to school so we can then work, wouldn't working be a vital part of that education? Shouldn't someone know how to work in a job before they leave school and pursue that job full time? Now, I know not every person work and go to school at the same time. We should take every individual situation and assess (maybe this particular person struggles with learning disabilities and needs to focus on school, etc.). But I like to gravitate towards hard work.

*We won't be paying for our children's college education. We will help with some costs if there's a dire need, but our kids are on their own. They can work. They can get good grades and receive scholarships. They can go part time. They can get grants. We know they can do it because a lot of people do it! We're not against helping our children --we just believe they can do it.

*Living in a dumpy place is not the end of the world. In fact, I would say that choosing to live humbly while struggling to attain something of great worth can only give a person better character. What does someone learn when they are given everything, who never struggle through anything, who never earn anything? Living in a dumpy place and working through college isn't a travesty. It's reality! I would even say it's a rite of passage into adulthood. Our first apartment as a married couple was a tiny one bedroom apartment. (In the summers, we lived in a shack. Literally!) We only moved when we were next in line for the "big" apartment --another one room apartment with a bigger kitchen and a separate living room! We finally moved to a 2 bedroom condo after graduation. I loved those tiny apartments!

*Tuition costs are really high. This is true. That's why people need to do their homework and decide which course of higher education is best for them. Maybe they need to go to a different school. Maybe they need to work for a year to earn the money. Whatever the case, it is possible to make it work!

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