Recently my husband and I were discussing that we should begin saving up for our kids’ college funds. Neither is in school yet, but it’s never too early to start saving. After all, in 15 years we’re not going to have $60,000 lying around to pay for our daughter to go nor will we have another 60 grand the following year for our son. It’s time to start saving then, right?
I don’t think my kids have to go to college. I don’t think any child does, and I think far too much pressure is being put on students and parents alike to get their kids there.
College is not the be-all and end-all solution to a problem. Many of my former classmates can attest to the fact that having a four-year degree does not guarantee you will be given a job after graduating. That’s not how the world works anymore, and it shouldn’t have been the way the world worked in the first place. I fully expect my kids to keep their own lights on once they’re out of the house, but college isn’t the sole way to make that happen. College is a choice, not a necessity.
Of course college is good for certain professions. If you want to be a lawyer or a psychologist or a doctor, you need specific professional training in those fields. For these jobs, you need to go to college.
But what if you want to be an artist or an author or a car salesman? These professions fill the hearts and minds of thousands of people with pride and accomplishment and satisfaction. Those working in these, and similar, fields feel good about themselves because they’re doing what they love. You don’t have to go to a university to feel pride in your work.
And what about plumbers or electricians or waste management professionals or other more hands-on careers? Sure, for some of these jobs you’ll need to go to school to learn the ins and outs of the field, but you don’t have to go $40,000 (or more) into debt to learn how to do them. You might go to a trade school or even start at the bottom, learn as you go, and climb your way up the ladder. And some of these jobs are far more lucrative than those you’re required to go to college for.
It’s been said that a big reason to go away to college is for the “experience,” but is the experience of moving away from home and living in dorms really worth going into debilitating debt? You can just as easily get a small apartment with some friends after high school and have a similar “experience” that won’t put you in the hole thousands of dollars.
College was good for me. I made some lifelong friends, met my husband, and learned who I was. But was it worth the debt I’m in now? I’m not sure. If I could go back in time, it’s hard to discern if it was the “right” choice for me. In the moment, it seemed like it was the best thing to do for where I was at in life, but maybe I should have figured out a cheaper route to education and maturity. Hindsight may not be able to help me, but it can help me guide my own kids onto the career path they’ll choose.
I will support my children in whatever they choose to do—college, trade school, living in an art commune, whatever it may be. I just want them to be happy, and going to college, if nothing else, does not guarantee that.
This article was originally published on