The Grandmother I Always Wanted ... College or Not? - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

The Grandmother I Always Wanted ... College or Not?

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2020 4:14 pm | Updated: 4:23 pm, Fri Jan 31, 2020.

College costs are often a family topic around the dinner table when children enter high school. The costs can be exorbitant, necessitating loans that impact the future success of young adults. Scholarships can mitigate some of the expense and working at a part-time job helps, but too many graduates start their adult roles deeply in debt from student loans.

While many 18-year-olds know their field of interest, too many do not have a solid, future plan. They enter college hoping something will suddenly pique their interest, and it sometimes does. However, often they enter college with a family suggestion of a career to pursue, get too far along to switch, and graduate with a degree in a field they will not enter. Does everybody need a four-year college degree? Why do we in education and we parents feel college is the natural step from high school? Why do college graduates garner more respect than manual workers we continually need?

College should be possible for those who determine that it is their desired course or necessary for their profession; however, being handed free college with no investment seems too easy. The cynic in me knows many will take advantage of the free ride and drop out after one or two years of less than mediocre grades.

Requiring graduation in a reasonable time for free money is not possible unless dropping out has the pay-back caveat. In 1963 when I graduated from Woman’s College, now University of North Carolina at Greensboro, my teacher’s scholarship from the state was really a loan, paid back when I taught in North Carolina. Since I had accepted it for two years, I owed the state two years teaching. However, my senior year I became engaged with plans to marry when my fiancée returned from his deployment. I accepted a teaching position in Virginia, knowing I would be living there when we married the following fall but, also, knowing I had to pay back the loan.

Florida has a Bright Futures program that allows free tuition at state schools based on a 3.5 grade point average and a designated SAT score. With a 3.0 GPA, 75 percent of tuition is covered. College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, has all students working to pay their expenses, so with the monthly required hours of work on campus, they graduate debt free. Other programs exist around the country to help, but not enough.

Several of my classmates chose not to pursue a college degree, and they have done well. One became the president of the Chimney Sweeps of America and once volunteered to clean the White House chimneys. He asked his pay to be a picture atop the White House. He indulged in his passion by parachuting all over the world, and he enjoyed life. He and his wife owned an antique/gift shop in my small hometown.

Our high school had vocational training. One class built a complete house each year, from laying the foundation to roofing. The students were similar to apprentices for framing and other carpentry work, plumbing, sheet rock installation, electrical, and painting. When they received their high school diploma, they were immediately hirable. Each year the school sold the house and bought more property and supplies.

We had courses leading to secretarial work: typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping. Some classmates started a job upon graduation, although others attended a secretarial school afterwards to hone their skills and secure more lucrative jobs.

Training to be a Registered Nurse was only two years in our local hospital, and they passed the state test. The students worked in the hospital after class for on-the-job-training. The floor work paid for your classes. They did not fill their class time with courses unrelated to their profession.

A college degree was an expectation for me, my sister, and most of my cousins. My family assumed I would go to a four-year college since I had chosen teaching as my profession, which required a degree. Other professions require a degree and even more than four years.

As a teacher I was expected to promote higher education, but not everyone needs to follow that course. I have friends and relatives who became plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, Emergency Medical Technicians, secretaries, receptionists, hygienists, make-up artists, musicians. Most of them took courses to qualify for specialized careers or to pass a certification test, but four years was not necessary.

Certainly, jobs that require no college are plentiful, but they usually do not provide a living wage. A beginning job working in fast food, washing dishes, or scooping ice cream may lead to managerial positions for a few, but they are not meant to be a permanent position. Those jobs are perfect for the high school students who live free at home and need spending money or a recent graduate who cannot decide the direction of his future.

While high schools should offer the academics to prepare the college bound student, consideration for those who prefer a different course should not be neglected. Schools concentrating on developing artistic talent or simply offering a few classes for the gifted in music or visual arts are available, so why not offer courses in mechanics, carpentry, plumbing, computer repair, or other practical courses that prepare a hands-on student for his life’s work.

Reality hits quickly when a high school graduate has not prepared for independence. An 18-year-old is rarely aware of the cost of necessities. Perhaps more life skills classes should emphasize the cost of actually living day to day, of looking at paycheck expectations, of making realistic budgets, and of saving for retirement.

One reason 18-year-olds go from high school to college without thinking about it too much is family expectation. If parents are college graduates, they expect their children to be, also. Another reason is the prestige of being a college graduate. Why do we value the academic and the artistic abilities more than the manual labor talents? We all need the skilled work of mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and television repairmen. As a talk show host recently said, “My plumber drives a BMW. I don’t.”

My mother’s advice was “Be prepared to support yourself. I hope you marry Prince Charming and never have to work a day in your life, but Prince Charming may die the next day.” A high school senior needs to consider his future independence seriously. Eventually, he needs to be able to pay the bills as well as provide a meaningful life for himself.

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