I find the college admissions scandal that broke last week as nothing short of a mess of tragedies.
It’s a tragedy that a student’s college choice has now become a brazen emblem of status, worthy apparently of criminal meddling, for parents. It’s a tragedy that one of the last remaining mainstays of merit in an America obsessed with identity-based equality, often times irrespective of effort, has now been irreparably tarnished.
And it’s a tragedy that the college admissions counselor field has been diminished, as I know many families and young people who have materially benefit from these services.
As a dad, and a financial adviser, I believe a college education is one of the best investments and sacrifices a family can make. Of course, this is not true for every young person, and of course I also embrace the idea of training for trades and apprenticeships.
In addition, for those young people with an unrestrained entrepreneurial spirit and an intuitive understanding of business, there’s likely never a lower-risk time in life to give starting a business a shot than the young adult years.
But most of us, in my opinion, need time in college to “season” and grow. And let’s just get it out there, most 18- to 22-year-old young adults are partially insane, and isolating them on an island of educational purpose is good for the emotional development of all parties (parents and kids).
I also know the counter arguments. Yes, some majors seem a bit frivolous, but as the dad of a “creative,” I’ve seen first-hand how a focused and motivated liberal arts student in a creative major can launch a great career of her own.
And yes, many colleges are bastions of socialist insanity, but give our kids some credit. No one comes out of an "Avengers" movie thinking they have super powers, because we know we are being entertained with fantasy, and for most survivors of leftist college indoctrination, all it takes is a review of the tax withholding on their first “real job” paycheck to counterbalance years of propaganda.
The next protest about the merits of college is the cost. Until last week, my family was knee deep in the college shopping process (my second daughter has since chosen Purdue), and I won’t argue the sticker price on some of the private schools we looked at it can only be described as breath-taking.
I did, however, notice very few families pay the sticker price, and more importantly, during this process it was very apparent that we in Indiana are blessed with an exceptional public university system. In fact, when run through an inflation calculator, tuition at Purdue today is basically the same inflation-adjusted cost as it was when I started there in the late 1980s. Now that’s value.
Of course, a college education shouldn’t be all about money, but as a dad I have to admit, it’s kind of all about money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 a 25-year-old with a bachelor’s degree had average earnings 65 percent higher than those with only a high school diploma. In my experience these increased earnings translate directly into more independence, greater confidence, and, to be frank, a potentially higher quality parent/young adult relationship, which is a primary point in all of it.
The admissions scandal is horrendous, and it would be easy to allow it to further taint negative predispositions about the expense of a college education. But this is the wrong response.
Educational decisions should be based on the needs of each individual child. Institutions will always have flaws, rarely should the flaws be the foundation of all decisions.