Friday, November 14, 2014

Passing on the Blessing

I come from privilege. I was born in a 1st world country, I'm in the ethnic majority, my parents are still happily married, both have university degrees and my university degree was entirely paid for [albeit not by my parents]. I'm sure if I looked, I could find what tiny percentage of the population this puts me in, but that's not really the point.

The point is, while I have clearly lived life standing on the shoulders of giants, I'm wondering how to responsibly pass this on to my children.

As Mark and I prepare to close on our forever home I'm particularly aware of, and utterly humbled by, the blessings we've been handed.

In the past year, I've been struck anew by the burden of debt that envelopes the lives of many of our peers. These are married couples who both work and yet can't afford to purchase a home, or upgrade to a larger home, because their monthly college-loan payments are larger than our new mortgage payment will be.

Sadly, I think this is the norm rather than the exception, caused largely by unsupported ballooning of college tuition. I don't want this for our children. And yet, I'm not of the mind that the solutions are any of the suggestions that one normally hears, most of which are along the lines of limiting yourself to 1.2 - 2 children, have both parents work and save up in order to fully fund the child/ren's college years.

So, we're not currently saving up for college, and yet I'm desperately against the idea that my children  should needlessly* enter adult life weighed down by a millstone of debt. I don't have a solution. But I have a hope. I hope that my children think and pray long and hard about exactly what they want to do with their adult life. We call this discernment. I pray that we are able to discern alongside them and offer them assistance in the way of a large and loving family, open hearts and home, warm meals and beds and decades of prayer and honest conversations as they make their way towards the adult world in whatever vocation they're called to.

*If they feel called to a career that requires and justifies a mountain of debt, no doubt we would help them with financial planning and encourage them to live frugally (i.e. not student housing) in order to decrease their financial burden.

I would love to hear thoughts from any similarly-minded parents (or kind criticisms if you really feel the need.)


Anonymous said...

My husband's parents had a wonderful plan for their children. At the end of college the kids were allowed to move, or stay, home for up to a year rent free while working so they could apply as much money as possible to pay off their student loans. Depending on how good of a job they got, most of his siblings, as well as himself, were all paid off in that years time.

Betsy said...

What a great idea!

Fernanda Powers said...

Erik and I both have Masters' degrees and Erik teaches as an adjunct professor at a local community college. We've been noting the gradual deterioration of college education in general. It's noticeable, to the point where neither one of us is sold on the idea that all of our children will go to college. I'm not saying they won't, but I'm not holding their college education as a assumption any longer.

With that said, as your children get closer to middle/high school, definitely look into concurrent education opportunities. Some homeschool programs offer support for this. Concurrent education is when a child is getting both high school and college credit by taking college level classes while still in high school. Some children even manage to graduate from high school with both a diploma and an associate's degree. My working goal for my children (oldest will be 12 in a few months) is to have them get an associate's degree in a practical skill (plumbing, mechanic, that sort of thing). Many of those skills take a two year degree, which they can start in high school. Once they have a skill, then they work, either while living at home or on their own (i'm leaning towards keeping them home if for no other reason than to save money), get a taste for what that's like. While they are working, they discern what they want to do more long term and then take the path that makes sense, with some money saved up. For example, if my kid wanted to be a doctor, then yes, at that point college becomes necessary, but if they know that's what they want and they've got a couple years of work experience under their belt, then they are likely to be more serious about their studies. Another child may feel called to get married and be a stay at home mom. Well, that's obviously not something she can control, but she could be gaining life experience through working a skilled job and maybe taking some college classes that interest her (or even distance learning), doing some interesting internships/missions trips in different places, but actually "going to college" may not be necessary or even beneficial. The midwife for our last baby went that route. She finished high school, did mother's helper stuff for a while, hooked up with a local midwife, then started training to be a midwife herself, went all over the world delivering babies (by the time I got her as her first official client, she had as much birth experience as the other midwives who'd been in practice longer). "Unfortunately" she won't be delivering any more of my babies because then she found herself a good Christian man, got married, and now has a baby of her own. Not a moment of her life wasted on those aimless (and expensive) first two years of college that are so typical for so many.

Those are my rambling thoughts on the subject. I'm sure I'll have even more good ideas when my oldest starts high school :) Bottom line: don't assume college education is for everyone (but don't rule it out too soon either), and encourage the children to start by getting trained in a practical life skill that they can work at to fund future more expensive dreams and/or fall back on if those dreams don't work out as well as they'd hoped.