Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sending kids off to college during a recession

I read an article at that explored the correlation between home values and college attendance; and once again, I began to think about families who are struggling in this recession and how they will provide their children with a higher education.

The article, "Want to go to college, kid? Check the home value," took into account statistics from the 2000's when the housing market was thriving, compared to the deteriorating housing market of our current decade. The article suggests that when home values are up, so are college attendance rates; but I am not convinced this is accurate. I would suggest rather, that parents encourage their children to complete their general education requirements at the local community college prior to receiving their diploma at a four-year college. Tuition, fees and living expenses for a California junior college students are currently estimated to be around half of what it costs to attend a University in California. Those costs can be cut even more substantially if the student lives at home during their time at community college. The numbers speak for themselves: California Community College per year is $5,650, whereas the yearly cost of sending your child to a UC is $28,600. Quite a difference! The best part about this option...once your child transfers to a four-year school and graduates, there is no mention of the junior college on their diploma. So, even if home values are plummeting, parents still want to see their kids get their education, and this is a reasonable avenue that many people are taking advantage of.

With that said, I have seen the junior college option both succeed and fail. The deciding factor: whether the student plans out their four year college plan. Merit offers four-year plan to help the student understand their options before before they head off to college. With the parents' support, the student is more likely to stay on course and complete their degree in 4 years than if they just start taking classes and make course decisions based on availability and personal whims. The student is also more inclined to sign up for classes at the first opportunity because they won't have to scramble to see which classes they need to take. What many students don't realize is that every minute they delay registration puts them at risk for falling behind-- if they wait to sign up for a class, they need it may become unavailable, thereby postponing their transfer. Due to recent budget cuts, many of the coveted classes are more difficult to get into; and if they can't take the classes they need according to the plan that was laid out, this could add a year to their college stay. What does that mean for the person footing the bill? Anywhere between $10,000 and $55,000 per year! If they cannot get into a class, I suggest taking an online course, or even attending a nearby community college to be sure they stay on schedule. For the critical courses, the student should contact the professor directly to ensure enrollment.

Lastly, it is important to acknowledge that sending your child off to college can be a risky investment. There are some kids who don't plan on taking college seriously. They aren't ready for the real world and look at college as a great opportunity to party with friends for four years, and this will most certainly put your finances at risk. Rob and I safeguarded our pocketbooks, while simultaneously encouraging our daughters' academic success by creating "contracts" that showed them that we would happily support them if they got good grades, but that they were on their own if their grades dropped.

The fact is, we are all living in a recession right now; to what degree depends on the individual family. Even if the value of your home has fallen, there are realistic options when it comes to sending your child off to college. Their education doesn't have to break the bank, and your financial woes don't have to affect their future.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think

Blog Widget by LinkWithin