Tag Archives: Education

The Cost of Higher Education

I was recently talking with two parents whose children are heading off to college.  One was dealing with financial aid issues and was concerned about the amount of debt his son might have to deal with after graduation. He acknowledge that he and his wife would be helping out, but that the costs of school exceeded what they’d be able to outright pay for. And since his son didn’t make high enough grades for any academic scholarships or grants, they would need to rely on various financial aid packages.

The other one expressed how happy he was to be dodging that bullet since his oldest had chosen to take advantage of a relatively new program in the state of Tennessee called the Tennessee Promise. With this program it provides FREE education at a community or technical college for two years, with the student graduating with an Associate degree. The advantage of this program is in not only allowing students a free education, but since most of the courses are General Studies classes, those wanting to go beyond an Associate to get their Bachelor’s degree, can apply to an in-state 4-year university to take the remaining two years of course work. This means they have two years longer to save up enough money to continue their education, if they’d like, or seek employment in the area of their two-year studies, and not have the burden of student loans to pay back.

To me, any parent living in this state, who doesn’t have $80,000 to pay for their student’s 4-year college tuition is kinda crazy for not to taking advantage of their kid receiving free higher education for two years; and cutting that financial commitment almost in half, should they choose to continue!

I understand a parents desire for their child to be able to choose where they want to attend school, just as much as they should be allowed to choose what it is they want to major in. But if the alternative is cleaning out your retirement funds, or having to prolong retirement for many years beyond your original plan, then I think looking at other resources needs to be on the table. 

The first guy was also struggling with the notion of his son declaring himself as independent. It seemed to bother him that a student could do that, or worst, that parents would want their kids to do that so that they don’t have to pay for their college education. So I interjected.

“You do know that there’s no law in this state that mandates a parent having to pay for their child’s college education?” I asked. 

Higher Education is a privilege not a mandate or a right. 

While I wish everyone who wanted to attend college could do so, and I wish our country could figure out a way to make it more affordable, if not free, it is still not a parent’s responsibility to empty their 401K, take out huge loans, or take on a second job just so they can pay for their kid’s education. Not only is it not their responsibility, but it can be dangerous for someone in their mid-50s, as was the case for him, to risk their financial future, especially being that close to retirement, in order to pay for their child’s education.

I went on to remind him that while some people can, and do pay for their children’s college; many parents don’t even have the luxury of choice in ever having had an education fund for their child, and they don’t make enough money even now to pay the tens of thousands of dollars tuition has grown to; even at state schools.

The other guy said his family fell into that group. “As sad as I am that I can’t, I just told my daughter that there was no way her mom and I could afford to pay for her college tuition. The money just wasn’t there. But fortunately for us, she was actually interested in attending a community college first any way. We were lucky.”

Sadly, I’ve heard too many accounts (and know of some personally) of parents trying to find money anywhere they can to pay for their student’s education, only for that student to not do well in school — either from not being ready for the demands of higher learning, or being away at school, or from just not caring or taking school seriously enough to try.

At the end of our conversation the first guy recounted a story of someone he knew who paid for her son’s first year of college, and after he managed to fail both semesters, she put the financial burden on him to continue forward and participate in the cost of his own education. The last time he checked, his friend’s son was doing quite well in school; even talking about the lessons he learned after blowing his first year, and the difference it’s making being responsible for it all himself.

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I think if parents have the means, and the desire to pay for their children’s college education, then they should do so. For some friends of mine, it’s almost like an insult to them not to provide that for their kids. At the same time, I don’t think other parents who can’t afford it, should be made to feel bad about needing financial assistance, or having their student declare independence, in order to qualify for the various grants and loans they would have access to apart from their parents. 

It does come down to money, planning, and sometimes, just being able to adjust to a new normal, and being alright with it.

 

 

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Yep, It’s Time to Go Back to School

It’s that time of year — again. While many families in the northeast, midwest, and the west coast are celebrating the midpoint of their summertime, with backyard cookouts, trips to the lake, and the kids being gone for another week or two away at camp, many southern state families are spending these final days of July shopping to replace the clothes and shoes their kids grew out of since last fall, and hectically going through the school district’s mandatory shopping list, in preparation for a return back to school soon.

In Tennessee, as with most southern states, students return to school before the end of August. In the Middle Tennessee area, which includes Nashville, students will be back to school by the first week of the month! Can you even imagine?

For one of the neighboring counties of Nashville, the busses will start rolling out this Wednesday, August 1. And almost all of the other area counties will follow less than a week later, with returns on August 6, 7, and 8! So if you sense a little panic from your southern Facebook and Instagram friends with kids, now you know why.

Fortunately, this is also Tax-free weekend (July 27-29) for the state of Tennessee. For those whose states may not offer this, it is a weekend once a year when parents can stock up for the school year, buying clothes, shoes, school supplies, and even computers, and pay no sales tax. In a state where the sales tax is 9.75%, that shopping bill can add up really fast. But so does the savings, if you plan ahead and do most, if not all, of your shopping during this time period. I mean, imagine a college student being able to save almost $100 for that $1,000 computer they need, by just choosing to purchase it this weekend versus next!

And now that parents are tasked with buying supplies for more than just their own child, planning your shopping adventure is even more important.

This is an actual list of school supplies for one of the local elementary schools:
  • Colored Pencils – Box(es)
  • Crayons – 24 Count
  • #2 Yellow/Wood Pencils Sharpened with Erasers, 24 Pack
  • Glue Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Ruler 12″ Standard/Metric
  • Protractor
  • Pocket Folders
  • Pens
  • Composition Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Spiral Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Package(s) of Sticky Notes
  • Box(es) of Facial Tissues
  • Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Canister(s)
  • Package(s) of Filler Paper, Wide Ruled

A Middle school list in the same district looks like this:

  • Pens, Blue
  • Pens, Black
  • Pens, Red
  • Pencils, #2
  • Package(s) of Cap Erasers
  • Package(s) of Filler Paper, Wide Ruled
  • Notebook paper
  • Package(s) of Graph Paper
  • 1″ Binders
  • Write On Dividers
  • Composition Notebook Wide Ruled
  • Highlighters
  • Dry Erase Markers
  • Colored Pencils – Box(es)
  • Hand Sanitizer – Bottle(s)
  • Canister(s) of Disinfecting Wipes
  • Box(es) of Kleenex Facial Tissues
  • Paper Towels – Roll(s)
  • Duct Tape
  • Hot Glue Gun Glue Sticks
  • Package(s) of Index Cards
  • Box(es) of Reclosable Storage Bags
  • Package(s) of Printer/Copier Paper – Colored
  • Masking Tape
  • Package(s) of Plastic Cups
  • Box(es) of Plastic Forks

So don’t just shop. Shop wisely.

  • Shop at the right stores.  Find the ones that have the lowest price on the things you need.
  • Use coupons. As you see, the school supply lists have grown way beyond pencils and paper. Look for store or manufacture coupons for those paper towels, toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, and Purell that many schools now require.
  • For your student heading off to college, check out yard sales and online sites where you can find inexpensive desks, chairs, bookcases, and other things for their dorm room and apartment.
  • And don’t be too embarrassed to shop at discount stores and places like Goodwill, where they also offer special discounts on top of their lower prices, including a 10% Student Discount on Sundays; a 10% Senior Adult Discount on Tuesdays; and 10% Military discount on Wednesday. Again, every little bit helps!

When it comes down to it, making the most of your time and saving the most of your money, requires some planning and preparation. But your bank account will thank you for all of the dollars you save. And you’ll thank yourself when that money comes in handy later; usually unexpectedly.

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From Zero to Hope: Part Two

I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to be married. But I can say that I’ve never wanted to be divorced. I have actually been neither.

But I’ve been to more weddings than I can count; a bridesmaid in my first one at only 15 years old. That was my oldest sister. She divorced seven years later. My two brothers also married and divorced. My parents, on the other hand, had been married for almost 50 years before my mother passed away. Oh, theirs was not a perfect union; far from it.  Something made them stick it out — for better or worst. I’d like to think it was always love that kept them together when things got rough and they felt like giving up; especially once we were all out of the house and old enough to survive on our own.  But it also wasn’t lost on me (and likely, not my parents either) how difficult it would have been for either one of them to survive single life in the late 20th and early 21st century, had they divorced during some of those trying times. Or even earlier, if my mom tried to raise six kids on her own. It’s been done before, but not always with success. And I’m certainly glad it was never anything we had to grow up in or deal with.

Other kids aren’t as lucky. Other couples aren’t as fortunate. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things happen. I have a number of acquaintances, associates, co-workers, and even friends who have gone through a divorce. Not a one of them have ever said they saw it coming; or at least not when they walked down that aisle, said their “I Dos,” promised to love in good times and bad times; until death do us part

No, most of them admit to struggles and challenges, like most marriages, but ending up divorced was not a part of their life’s plan. When it happened; they had a couple of choices. They could either allow their divorce lead them to anger, depression, bitterness, guilt, shame, and so many other negative, unhealthy feelings — which I’ve seen. Or they could choose to hang on; cling to hope, and to not accept or allow what happened to their marriage to define what was going to happen to them and their future.

Most of them ended up going in and out of  both places. The reality of a changed life that they didn’t ask for. And the truth that they didn’t have to let that determine their future success — in love, in parenting, in work — in life. And those who landed in a place called HOPE have been able to move on; to adjust to their new normal.

That’s what Kathy did. Her story post-divorce began “messy,” as she described it. But she didn’t leave it there. She found a way to keep going.

From Zero to Hope: Part Two

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What this little graphic does not show you are many nights I cried for one reason or another.

Yet, I can say despite the struggles, I am blessed to look back and see the village that supported me and those who still do to this day. Transparency and vulnerability are necessary if you are going to benefit from the “village.” It is not just about the transparency and vulnerability of the ones in need, but it extends to those playing the supportive role. Once again, this is not easy, especially if your tragic circumstances include a form of loss of meaningful relationships. This too is messy…”who do I trust and what do I trust them with?” I have to ask myself this question constantly and consistently, which is exhausting.

So where is the hope in all this? Well, I can tell you that once I accepted the fact that my new normal was going to be “messy” for a while and that I needed to prayerfully invite members into “my village” for support, this is where the strength to take the first step begun. What the graphic does not show you are various victories won:

  • healing from the emotional struggles
  • freedom from doubt
  • regaining sight of my worth and value
  • new friends and strengthened family ties
  • two wonderful boys who remind me daily how much they love me
  • the experience of walking with the Savior who is fashioning something new out of my life
  • gaining beauty from my ashes

kathy-phillipsFor me the journey is still underway and I must keep moving forward. Yet, I do know with each step that I will need the love of God to sustain me, the love of friends to encourage me, the courage to inspire others, and the ability to accept that this is going to be “messy.” Win or lose, the battles will come. I can only take it one day at a time, pressing toward my final destination-hope. Mercy and grace continue to cover me and allow me to discover that hope exists and is available along the way!