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I expect my grandchildren to get a college education and ...

Whatever complaints people may have about their local school or college costs, most have no doubt that their children need a good education. People see it as the most reliable path to a good life, and they are right.

The unemployment rate for college graduates is a mere 2.3 percent. College graduates earn vastly more than non-graduates. Educational gaps in life expectancy and health status are growing too.

When you start to dig into the education skepticism, you find that much of it collapses. Those journalists and academics publicly questioning the value of education? Many are desperately trying to get their own children into strong school systems and colleges. Their skepticism apparently applies only to other people’s kids. David Leonhardt, March 18, 2018

My grandmother kept a plastic piggie bank on a kitchen counter of her small home. It was my college fund. Each day as I was growing up, she put a silver coin (no pennies) in that bank. When the pig filled up, she and I ceremoniously took it to the bank to deposit the contents in a special account with a handwritten update in the paper bank book meticulously added. By the time I graduated from high school in 1970, I had $600 - probably about $6000 in 2018 dollars - in the account. It was Grannie's way of showing me, as well as telling me, that I was expected to go to college.

My four-year college degree was a first in my family.

I thought about this when my grandson Paul and his dad came to do a college visit to the U of Minnesota campus last weekend. Paul's parents and all his grandparents are college graduates, most of with advanced degrees. That Paul and his brother would go to college more or less has gone without saying.

I've read some of the same concerns about the "value" of a college education that Leonhardt refers to in his NYT piece quoted above. Massive post-college debt and low entry level salaries raise the question of whether college is still a good financial move. But personally, I think that people who graduate with huge college debts were not really smart enough to go to college in the first place.

My concern about sending kids to college is that it very much inculcates social conformity and compliance. The rabblerousers, the entrepreneurs, the artists, the change agents are often those without post secondary degrees. College (well any formal education) is a test that society gives to determine whether you are willing to play by the rules.

Playing by social rules and obeying social norms is not necessarily a bad thing. A regular income, a good neighborhood, decent medical care, time and funds for recreation and hobbies are not exactly exciting, but one can find happiness and contentment in them. So one might "sellout" but the price for which one sells one's freedom is a pretty decent one for most of us who have shown we will be model citizens by going to college.

I would like it both ways for my grandsons. I would like them to get good educations and have solid careers. But I also hope they have the courage and confidence to challenge systems when needed. To risk that comfortable place in society where the education has placed them when the need is there.

Is this possible? Are you encouraging your children and grandchildren to pursue a formal post-secondary education?

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Reader Comments (2)

I do encourage my daughter towards college but I do wonder about schools that have signs like “College - not if but where!” I think it’s good to let them know it’s possible, especially if they’re not sure it is. But there are other paths. My brother is a head pro at a golf club and is happy. He didn’t go to college. He went to PGA school instead. My dad did some college but never graduated. My mom and I both went to college and got lots of other degrees. I think overall it’s a great idea and needs to be encouraged. But I don’t think it’s the only way and it gets dangerous when I read articles about schools who tout their 100% college acceptance rate, only to find out later most of that turned out to be bogus.

March 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Hi Jim,

Good points about other paths. I often wonder if plumbers aren't the smartest of all of us in career choices! And there are plenty of scam "colleges" around. I worked with two ladies who both got "MBAs" that did them no good at all and left them thousands in debt. I don't know why anyone goes to anything other than a state school - but them I am prejudiced toward them!


March 23, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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