Today, the AJC has a story reporting that the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high. The story says the average list price for a state school now runs more than $17,000 a year, according to the twin annual reports on college costs and student aid published Wednesday by the College Board.
Earlier, the AJC reported hat student debt now exceeds credit card debt. With my older two children at colleges that rank among the nation’s costliest, I worry about the debt that they will carry. But I also understand that college costs can be viewed as a debt or as an investment.
A reader sent me this note, which I thought provided great food for thought on this topic. Most of us evaluate a college’s value based on the classes, but the reader notes that better colleges place you in better milieus and expose you to a brighter class of people and could lead to many other enhancements in your life.
Here is his note:
First, I believe that selecting and getting into a college is the first adult decision that many kids make in their entire lives. It is time for them to begin thinking like an adult, which means things like where a buddy or girlfriend is going is pretty much out the window, along with a dozen other reasons that kids come up with for picking a particular school.
The sole criteria for most kids should be to get into the very best school they can qualify for and afford. If that’s not a real good school, get into the one that offers them the best opportunity to transfer. For example, Perimeter College has a deal with the University System, I believe, that allows their graduates, upon completion of their two-year program, to attend any school in the system. (For information on the GPC Transfer Admission Guarantees, click here.)
That includes Georgia Tech. What you have here is an opportunity for a kid who has pretty much messed up his life so far to work his way into a first-rate university, and it’s reasonably priced. Don’t want to be an engineer? I don’t blame you, but you have an opportunity to move into one of the higher circles in life.
Why should a person want to do this? Forget the money. That will come, but consider the following. You’ve hung out at the gas station for most of your teen years, and your pimply faced buddies who communicate in grunts and obscenities. You’re the one who’s going to college. Are they or guys like them your forever social strata?
At a first-rate school, you tend to meet and know first-rate people and this will follow you through life. You begin to function in a group from whom the odds are you will choose a spouse (with whom you will beget children, who are little darlings and don’t need to be gotten out of jail every Saturday night.)
Believe it or not, your interests will be more interesting. Public service, travel, good music, better reading, world and national affairs etc. After all, how much time can you spend talking about transmissions?
Kids should know they’re talking about a decision that will affect their entire life.
I am skeptical about guidance counselors and objective advisers. This is an advocacy situation. Among the books I would recommend to this end is Andrew Ferguson’s “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College.” He reviews the entire admissions system in a thoroughly researched amusing book. He knows the colleges have not been entirely fair in the process and puts a lot of it into perspective.
On a slightly different topic, the NYT recently ran an article about a scam by a San Francisco college in which they gave scholarships to freshmen contingent on their maintaining a “B” average. Then, they limited the number of “A’s” and “B’s” their teachers could give. This resulted in a very large number of students losing their scholarship at the end of their first year. Because these were pretty good students, they had high “C” averages and, generally speaking, became tuition paying students. This is called “discounting.” I know of the same thing happening at a prominent Mountain State university, so word gets around.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog