Tom Finneran: Give Your Mom and Dad a $61,000 Raise
Friday, April 11, 2014
The problem of college tuition appalls ordinary working folks. For any family with two or three or more children, there is nothing more intimidating than the prospect of several years of college tuition, with some of those years bearing the harrowing prospect of two or three simultaneous payments. My oldest daughter for example has four children and the oldest, the twins, are only five. Simple math tells me that at some date in the future she will have three, perhaps four children in college at the same time. Does anyone out there know Bill Gates? Even Bill would blanch at the thought of several sixty, seventy, even eighty thousand dollar tuition payments arriving at the same time. At that point it might be best to head out of town, leaving no forwarding address!
The three-year option
I don’t begrudge America’s colleges their charges although a quick calculation tells me that I could stay at The Four Seasons for an entire year for about the same dollars. Professors of serious subjects—physics, chemistry, molecular biology, engineering, history, literature, and economics—don’t come cheaply. And classrooms, laboratories, libraries, dormitories and gymnasiums all cost a pretty penny. Wesleyan, and a handful of other schools including UMass Amherst and Lesley University, have hit upon a good old-fashioned solution to the conundrum of college costs. It’s called hard work.
Essentially, they give students the option of doing all their required course work in three years rather than four, thereby saving them a full year of a serious five figure financial hit. This old-fashioned idea of buckling down and grinding through a tough stretch is a Godsend in two ways.
Most obvious of all is the substantial relief to a student’s parents and family, all of whom would otherwise be straining to stay afloat during these tenuous years. The second benefit of course is to the student, who absorbs an important life lesson regarding responsibility. That responsibility stretches beyond the expectation of taking serious courses and earning good grades. It encompasses an awareness of the sweat and sacrifice of others and a willingness to shoulder a meaningful share of a big burden.
The Globe article spoke about the sacrifice of students who choose the three-year option. They forego studying abroad. They forego summer breaks. They even forego some sleep, although none of these sacrifices strike me as particularly difficult. Not when the looming invoice for that fourth and final year carries a $ 61,000 bottom line. The real challenge is in the coursework, where the eight courses a student would normally carry in their senior year have to be shoehorned in and around the existing coursework for years one through three. That means heavier course loads throughout those years, perhaps combined with summer courses as well. Again, it’s not the end of the world, particularly if it allows younger siblings to get their own chance to attend college.
I think that UMass and Wesleyan and Lesley are really on to something here and I am encouraged. College campuses often seem utterly oblivious to the real world, badly hung up on political correctness and seemingly willing to offer preposterous courses in completely indulgent and useless “victim studies”. But that’s a topic for another day. For today we can take hope in the fact that some colleges recognize the collision of economic forces that frighten far too many American families. That recognition, and the hard work solution which they offer, is a big step in the right direction.
Rah, rah, rah... sis, boom, bah. Go Wesleyan. Go UMass. Go Lesley.
Give your Mom and your Dad your love and your effort. And give them a raise.
Related Slideshow: New England States with the Highest Student Debt
A new report released by the Institute for College Access & Success' Project on Student Debt found that the average debt load for the class of 2012 was $29,400 -- up more than 10% from the previous year. Check out the slides below to see where New England ranks in terms of average student debt.
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