A college education does not guarantee success. In fact, it may kill true success altogether. How do I know? I follow what is coming out of colleges and universities all over the nation. The fallout of our liberal, ego-inflating, extremely expensive higher education system is too ugly to look at.
It’s obvious that college and university campuses are hotbeds for idiocy of all types, from radical socialism to radical Islamism. It seems Christian young people, especially, enter with a good idea of who they are and Who made them, and exit with their heads and their hearts all scrambled together like a Denver omelet.
Yes, there are a few professions which require degrees, and a few more for which a degree will open the door. However, we push and push and shove and lecture and beg all children everywhere all the time to go to college even if they may never, ever need to.
All this with a price tag that starts young people out as debtors, with an obligation which cannot be released even with bankruptcy (read here how college debt outstrips consumer debt in the US). According to College Board, a four year degree can cost between $80,360 and $181,480! (College tuition inflation is twice that of general inflation, according to finaid.org.)
While the sacred mantra is, “Get a degree so you will make more money and land a more meaningful job,” there is evidence to the contrary. Even though the economy has been slowly picking up, college grads still find it hard to find employment that matches their degrees. As of the end of 2016, the rate of unemployment for recent graduates was still over 43%, and over 33% of all graduates were underemployed.
Here’s a real-life scenario for you:
During high school my husband had a friend who started working at a local grocery store where he pushed carts and bagged groceries. All of his classmates took off and went to school, or into the military, or a number of various directions.
15 years later we traveled back to my husband’s home town. The guy who was a “stick-in-the-mud” and stayed at his grocery store job was one of the most successful out of all of his buddies. His start up wages were low, but at least he wasn’t paying someone else for useless indoctrination. In the end, his wage level and benefits were just as high as those who had earned degrees. Hard work and a willingness to learn every aspect of the job was what gave him the edge. Sticking around his home town also meant he was a blessing to his parents and could “give back” to the community that brought him up.
Oh, and he didn’t have a student loan to pay off.
Now that’s a success story.
It is the rare individual who at 18 knows what he will be doing for the rest of his life.
Most of us, degrees or not, sort of feel our way along, and often we end up in with an entirely different scenario than we first dreamed. Most college students do not end up finishing the degrees they start out with. They either constantly adjust their majors or drop out half-way, still owing a mound of debt (according to The Atlantic, only 46% of those Americans who pursue a four-year degree actually go on to complete it).
So, maybe we need to take another look at college.
Yes, if we have children who are passionate about becoming doctors, lawyers, and engineers, we will definitely want to set them down to some serious college preparation courses, or even do a dual-enrollment via a local community college.
But if we have children who don’t have a definite professional bent, or who are not keen on college, or are just “meh” when it comes to having a clear direction, it’s sheer lunacy to force them to into the idea.
Which brings me to my next question:
After experiencing so much success with our more relaxed way of doing things, why do we pin our teens down to the same dreary, lifeless curriculum as their public schooled peers?
Which leads to yet another question:
What if we did something different?
What if we spent those precious years we still have them at home preparing them (or allowing them to prepare themselves) for life, or at least for a vocation instead of a degree? What if our emphasis was not on pursuing money or prestige, but on pursuing God, developing an ear for His leading and calling, and then pursuing that calling?
In order to do this we must homeschool as if college does not exist.
There are no AP requirements, no SAT scores to worry about, no scholarships to vie for. No transcripts to fill out.
Only the important, serious work of deciding what REAL success looks like and how to obtain it.
Doing this will free us to formulate plans that work and whole people will emerge, instead of the fractured, hollow delinquents we have been producing in our education “factories.”
What would this look like?
Well, it would not proffer any guarantees. It would not be, “If you do A, B, and C, then you will automatically receive D.”
It would be more like, “Dear, if you will listen to God, and then work hard at whatever He tells you to do, He will lead you and guide you and you will become a blessing to His Kingdom as you determine to do His will.”
And, “Dear, you need to be thinking that you only have 70 or less years to prove to God that you actually do love Him. How will you go about that?”
What sorts of things would we require of our children, then?
- A great work ethic
- A polite and gracious demeanor
- A willingness to love others and keep to our word no matter how that costs
- Willingness to go or to stay, whatever it takes to follow His specific will for one’s life
- Learning to control one’s passions instead of being controlled by them
- Saying yes to hours of study, even if it isn’t fun as long as it helps us achieve His goals
- Acquiring a large overview of the world, its history and the way it works, in order to become “wise as a serpent, yet harmless as a dove”
- Becoming good communicators, both in the oral and written word
- Learning how to handle personal finances and navigate through the business (boring) parts of life
We could do this by:
- Making sure our children can read and write fluently.
Not just for research papers and essays. They need to be able to formulate a coherent email or business proposal or make a compelling speech (preach) or presentation.
- Giving our young people hard work and challenges.
If they live at home, they must participate in the welfare of the family. No free devices or cars, or even clothes and food. They are required to pitch in and earn their own way, whether it be doing odd jobs, babysitting, pushing carts or flipping burgers.
- Including our young people in the doings of real life.
Painting the house, changing the oil, deciding what to do when there is a crisis and the bills must be paid, helping with the younger children, helping care for elderly relatives, etc.
- Allowing our young people time to pursue their interests.
This was brought home to me when I met one of my eldest son’s coworkers. She had worked alongside two of our children and watched them excel in comparison to their peers. She told me it was because they had their teen years to purposely focus on their areas of interest instead of being distracted by all of the “socialization” going on in public schooling (you know, things like all the clubs and sports and dances that everyone accuses us of keeping our kids from enjoying).
- Exploring possible vocations which do not require college degrees.
“My goal here is to challenge the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for the most people, and confront the outdated stereotypes that continue to drive kids and parents away from a whole list of worthwhile careers,” Rowe said. “Many of the best opportunities that exist today require a skill, not a diploma.”
The average starting salary for a college graduate is $45,000, while the average salary of someone who went through trade school is $42,000.
Electrical-power-line installers and repairers
Projected openings: 49,900
Projected openings: 11,700
Projected openings: 12,900
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
Projected openings: 150,200
Projected openings: 14,400
Detectives and criminal investigators
Projected openings: 27,700
Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
Projected openings: 29,100
- Fill their minds with out-of-the-box possibilities.
Know someone who owns their own start-up or went another unconventional path? Why not set up a meeting with your young person to ask questions, etc. You could also continue the family tradition of read-aloud time and include stories of people who were called by God to different parts of the world, or who were entrepreneurs who dedicated their wealth to the furthering of God’s Kingdom (such as J. C. Penny).
- Get involved in missions and outreach.
The books and websites I found which dealt with college alternatives all mentioned public service as a possible way to gain education and adult development naturally. Their usual suggestions were America Corps and Youth Corps. As believers we have a kazillion more choices! For one thing, almost every church as short-term missions opportunities. Then there are the national organizations, such as Youth With a Mission, with headquarters all over the world and a host of trips planned in the near future.
There are a number of books and websites available to help young people think and rethink their career choices.
A few of them I was able to check out at our local library. The ones I found were not geared towards believers, but they still offered some interesting advice. One of the things I agreed with was that young people are in charge of their futures, that there are no instant formulas or guarantees.
I also agreed that self-motivation and hard work are essential ingredients for success in any realm.
However, there were a few missing elements, even some red flags where morality is concerned that you need to be aware of before you turn such tomes over to your impressionable young person. (It might be better if you read such books aloud together so you can discuss the life-choices of the authors.)
That being said, there are some titles I suggest you read for further study. If nothing else, they will help you examine old assumptions and present real-life success stories from people who chucked college and ended up loving their decision.
Better Than College, Blake Boles
Hacking Your Education, Dale Stephens
The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, Maya Frost (have this one on hold, so I am not 100% about it, although it sounds interesting)
Just for good measure, here is a site that might lend you a little more freedom in your thinking:
And so, I hope I have stirred the pot sufficiently!
If you have a child who definitely needs, wants, must go to college, please don’t feel badly. This was only meant to jog us free from the assumption that in order to be successful homeschoolers our children have to go to college.
Of course, if you have any real-life experience in this area, please share it with the rest of us!