I can be wrong.
When this is pointed out, and especially if defeat is imminent, I say what my late partner used to say.
“I strike my colors!”
Centuries ago, this meant to lower the flag (i.e. the “colors”) of a ship while it was at sea. Doing so was a universally recognized indication of surrender, especially if the vessel in question was under attack.
In my world, uttering this phrase means that my opinion needs some serious attitude modification.
The last few months—filled with betrayal, anger, and at last, some serenity—have been filled with some extremely rocky days and nights for our family. Thankfully, we’re now all on the same path… but not without crossing some gnarly territory first.
This is about college.
My daughter will soon graduate from high school, a private college prep place that we’ve only been able to afford because The Hubster teaches there.
In just about every way, the school has been a saving grace from our public school experience. We’ve found small classes; instructors giving quality time to kiddos because they aren’t buried in paperwork, and a mindset that the coolest kids are those who get the best grades and do the most community service projects.
This way of thinking has helped my daughter become a special young adult.
In spite of the school’s strict academic standards and her documented learning differences, she’s a solid B student. More importantly, she’s compassionate, strong and funny, and runs with a good crew,
So when it came time to meet with the school’s college counselor, there seemed to be only one route toward continuing her education: get into a four-year university. It was suggested that we especially look at private places, since they, too, boast the same Very Good Things as her high school.
When we brought up community college, the idea was immediately shot down.
“OH!” said the counselor, turning to my daughter. “You can do much better than that!”
So, this path was dropped in favor of finding nine colleges (three to reach for, three that my daughter would likely get accepted to, and three that would definitely want her) for her to submit applications to. Because we were taking this route, there would also be SATs for my child to endure, and some extra tutoring.
Still, we caught the excitement, gamely nodded our heads and budgeted accordingly.
Knowing how expensive college can be, we also asked the counselor about those costs.
“Get accepted first,” she said. “Don’t worry about money. The money will come.”
All seemed to be going to plan when our kid was accepted into eight of the nine colleges on her list. Out of this, three schools in New York offered congratulations, including the prestigious Pratt Institute, her number one reach school.
Then the scholarship packages started arriving.
Except for one huge thing.
They weren’t exactly offering the funds we’d thought they would be.
In fact, despite as much as 30 percent off from the listed tuition/room and board costs, enrolling in any of these schools was going to cost us, the parents, at least $30,000 per year in loans (yes, that’s four zeros).
On top of that, my daughter would graduate with a monumental amount of debt—up to $50,000.
This slope gets even more slippery if parents and kids decide that the loan must be deferred in order to attend
That’s because once this decision is made, the monies are frequently manipulated to favor the lender.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for federal college funds to be bought and sold several times, with compounded interest merrily added along the way. Consequently, both parent and student debt often ends up being much higher than the initial figures given. And basically, unless you die or become completely disabled, there is no way, ever, to get out from under, even if you declare bankruptcy. (Many dozens of these horror stories are at http://studentdebtcrisis.org/read-student-debt-stories/)
So, yes indeed, the money would come—from our pockets. This also meant that unless we dived into deep debt doo-doo for the rest of our lives, going to college in this manner wasn’t only not smart, it was unworkable.
It was time to strike our colors.
It wasn’t easy for our daughter to hear the new plan—another look at community college.
Honestly, this wasn’t a happy dance for me either.
I’d always pictured my kid at a toney East Coast campus, popular and happy, and because we had done everything right and in its logical progression, never having to worry about costs. And, I also remembered that what was once called junior college was where the losers went. Everyone got in because all of its students had been rejected everywhere else.
Then I started looking into what community college is today.
Specifically, I started looking at the school my daughter will be attending.
As it turns out, this CC is ranked in the Top 10 in our state. It also has only 6,000 kids, so classes here, like her high school, are small. Did you also know that Walt Disney, Tom Hanks and Jonas Salk all started their higher educations at community colleges?
Another plus is that once my child receives her AA degree, she’s guaranteed admission to one of our 23 state colleges or a growing handful of California universities, including UC Berkeley. There’s another track to ensure that all of her ducks will be in place if she decides on an out-of-state or private school. Moreover, both public and private four-year schools generally offer way better financial aid to junior transfers, partly because so many freshman and sophomores have already dropped out.
In addition—and it turns out that this is now a trend around the country—many of the CC professors here teach the
exact same courses at the expensive four-year college that’s down the road.
Here’s another selling point: students who start college at a CC are much more likely to graduate from a
I don’t know exactly why this is. But I do know that with its far lower tuition rates, and often, far more majors to choose from, community college students have a lot more wiggle room when it comes time to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. On the other hand, students who enter a pricey university immediately after high school often don’t get this luxury—maybe because a lot of families quickly find out that they can’t shoulder the exorbitant costs beyond the initial four years.
And one more thing.
Thanks to a generous patron, my daughter’s first year of tuition will be free.
Cuesta College, here we come.
What do you think about college costs today, and what do you think about community colleges today? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. Find out more about the advantages of community college here, at http://www.moneycrashers.com/benefits-of-community-college/.