It’s time for some straight talk about the high cost of a college education.
This is easier said than done. First, there’s the problem of overcoming the myths, such as the old canard that because of the high costs, fewer students can go to college.
Second, there’s the task of dealing with egos, guilt feelings, and peer pressure. Too many parents believe they have failed in life if they can’t pay for their kids’ college education or, to the other extreme, send their kid to a college they can’t afford just to keep up appearances.
And the kids themselves are a big part of the problem, the ones who insist on attending the college of their choice even if it throws their parents into economic bondage for 10 to 15 years to pay for it.
Then there are the financial advisers who tell parents to set aside money to pay for their kids’ higher education before the little tot arrives home from the hospital delivery room. Second mortgages are taken out on houses to pay tuition bills. Consultants earn big money showing parents and students how to borrow large sums of money for college, effectively mortgaging their future in exchange for a bachelor’s degree.
College bills totaling $25,000 or more for four years are common. Even students graduating from a state-supported university can have a $30,000 bank loan to hang alongside their new sheepskin.
It’s not only ludicrous, it’s a national scandal. Educators, politicians and business leaders are not leveling with the general public. And far too often families won’t even consider educational alternatives because of their ”my way or no way” attitude.
With some careful research and a give-and-take attitude, every reasonably qualified student in the United States, regardless of age (students as young as 14 have earned master’s degrees through off-campus study), race or place of residence can earn a degree from an accredited college.
To say a student can’t attend college because there is no money available is untrue. Here are some of the ways to attend college without accumulating a mountain of debt:
Go part time. Take one or two classes a semester, enroll in summer school and take five or six years to graduate instead of four, paying for each course as you go along. Don’t be afraid to take a low-level, less prestigious job to earn your keep. Many companies have tuition reimbursement benefits.
Join the military. The armed services will pay up to 75 percent of tuition costs. Top students can apply for ROTC scholarships that pay for tuition costs at a college of choice. Members of the military can apply for appointment to one of the military academies.
Enroll in an external degree program. A number of universities, such as Indiana and Minnesota, have programs whereby students living anywhere in the United States can work toward a degree and live at home, which reduces such costs as room and board, while allowing time for a job.
Degree by examinations. The University of the State of New York offers a program that allows students anywhere in the world to earn a degree by passing examinations. Life experience credit is sometimes given for job skills and special talents.
Some of the nation’s most prestigious universities have opened their doors to ambitious students.
A degree from an Ivy League school is attainable without going into debt. All a student needs to do is go to Cambridge, Mass., and sign up for one or two afternoon or evening courses at Harvard University’s Extension College. If they pass 16 hours of credits with acceptable grades, they will be permitted to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. Extension graduates have been admitted in Harvard’s Law and Medical College.
The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, including its highly regarded Wharton School of Finance, and Columbia University in New York City are two other Ivy League schools that accept part-time students. These are just a few of the ways students can earn a degree. There are also magnificent opportunities for students over age 24, such as Brown University’s Resumed Education Program.