I just got back from visiting colleges with my daughter. She’s a junior, but we’re looking at some pre-college programs as well, and since she has a very specific interest (art/illustration), we’re trying to educate ourselves. Art schools and private universities with good art departments are very expensive. VERY.

So when this screener landed in my inbox, I was intrigued.

I had the luxury of earning a degree at an in-state university in Texas, which has historically low tuition. My parents paid in full. I know that for so many families, the crippling cost of education — even an in-state college in other states — causes them to turn to student loans to get what they think they need. A few here and there are one thing, but to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars hanging over your head doesn’t seem to make sense at all.

I’ve always maintained as a parent that cost is going to be a factor in our decision-making, but with my daughter pursuing a specialized path that is just flat-out not offered at our in-state colleges, I’ve changed my tune to some degree. That said, it’s still my goal for her to graduate debt free.

Even before watching the film, it was my theory that college is the biggest consumer choice you can make. Just like you wouldn’t buy a house that costs 3 times more than you can afford, pursuing an education that is more than you can reasonably pay seems to be setting yourself up for financial distress.

I’ve also been struggling with the push for every child to go to college, which is what my middle-class competitive school district is teaching. I know people who work in the schools who are told never to suggest other paths. Yes, I understand that because of social or economic factors, college wasn’t considered to be an option for many teens in the past, and there are some teens with that ability and desire in their heart that need to be encouraged and affirmed so that he or she has the courage to pursue post-secondary education. But what about a child with a love of cars? or landscaping? or welding? or hair? Many of these careers are viable, financially rewarding (without the high cost of college attached) and looking for people to hire. Does everyone need to go to college?

To be completely honest, though I honestly believe that, I can’t imagine my children not attending college. Could I be doing what I’m doing without a college degree? Yes, probably. But would I trade that experience? No. Do I want my kids to have that 4 year opportunity to live in the middle of childhood and adulthood before hitting the real world? Yes.

After watching the film — my ideals have been challenged, and some of my beliefs have been strengthened. I will say that the question that is posed about whether kids are actually learning in college has supported the path that my daughter is seeking. She’s not looking for an elite needlessly expensive collegiate experience. Because she wants to be a professional working artist, she is seeking out the best instruction in her field, and there’s a higher cost associated with that. Maybe that’s how everyone justifies their costs.

Have college costs gotten out of control? Are student loans which were meant to bridge the time until a person became gainfully employed after earning a college education gotten out of control? Is the government unfairly profiting in this industry? Is higher education a right? Should it be pursued by all? Is there a place for education hackers? Will higher education change in the future?

These are the kinds of questions that Ivory Tower asks. I invite you to tune in Thursday November 20 at 9pm or 11pm eastern, or set your DVR, and come back here and discuss it with me.

Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer

Jennifer lives in Houston with her family. In addition to reading, she enjoys travel, Bible study, food, and fun. She blogs about some of these things -- when her nose isn't in a book -- at Snapshot.

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