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What a waste of $6,570

Lack of exposure means lack of choices. In reality, teens know more ice cream flavors than they do things they can become when they grow up. Rethinking how we invest in our children's college education isn't just important, it is overdue.

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In theory, when a baby is born, parents are bombarded with mailings about saving for college, starting a college fund, signing up for Upromise, and the like, but in reality, saving $1 a day for 18 years ($6,570) isn’t going to buy you much more than a year of tuition at a state school if you are lucky.  When they get there,  nationwide, more than 1/3 of students will drop out and 80% will change their majors at least one time.  At low income, Hispanic serving institutions where students are first generation college students, the numbers are even higher, ½ and 90%.  There goes the $6,570…costly decision. 

In America, one of the best paying and one of the most in demand jobs is called an Actuary but few Americans have ever heard of the job unless they have seen the movie, “Along Came Polly”.  An Actuarial Science Degree isn’t a possibility for most people given it requires up to calculus III level math, but for those who like and are good at math, it isn’t a possibility either because lack of exposure means lack of choices. 

While Obama will argue otherwise and say we can achieve anything as long as we work hard and stay dedicated to our education, how can we become what we don’t know?  When I work with teens I ask them to name as name as many flavors of ice cream as they can think of in two minutes and they come up with about 20.  I then ask them to take two minutes and list as many job titles as they can think of  that don’t wear a uniform and unfortunately, teens in America (even adults) know more about ice cream than they do about things they can become. 

What a great investment of 18 years of education.  Oh, and what a great plan for that savings.  Throw $6,570 at an 18 year old who IS going to change their major, it is statistically proven.  The sad thing is, what they chose to, is still based on lack of exposure; who they happen to talk to, run into, read about, etc. 

What if we spent 18 years teaching our kids about what they are going to be spending 24% of their week doing.  That $1 a day instead could be 1 career a day.  That means when they get ready to go to college, they have 6,570 choices.  That is a fabulous investment.


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Photo of Paul

Interesting comments - apparently we are prepared to promote investment in failure after college but not before - two of my four kids changed their major and haven't looked back since - in fact they are both now better qualified than the two who continued with their first major, although interestingly the latter two are now both working in fields unrelated to their qualifications.
One of the modern diseases in the developed world is a focus on individual financial success and financial return on investment. The need for all to focus more on triple and quadruple bottom lines is not far away now.

If we can answer why your average 18 year old American knows more about ice-cream than careers I suspect the investment required to overcome that is in the hundreds per student rather than thousands. But it won't stop some of them from making poor choices, that's an important part of their life experience. It's what they do with the failed outcome and the support they get for finding an alternative they can be passionate about that will propel them forward.

As for hard work - that is the lot of most of us - labourer and businessman alike.- maybe a few get lucky but the majority are rewarded for effort., although political views may colour the perceived fairness and justice in the reward.

Having said all that I can certainly agree investing in a concept around how better to inform students throughout their schooling, and supporting parents to participate, is extremely worthwhile.

Photo of Mira

Paul, you make a great point! It's also always been odd to me that there are such different career tracks for different levels of education. For instance, during my undergraduate study at a state university, I was never exposed to a number of career options. I had never heard of a "consultant" and really had no idea what it was to be a consultant. As an undergraduate, I would have undoubtedly named more ice cream flavors than careers.

Then when I went to graduate school at a private Ivy League university, there were new career paths open to me, including consulting. I am a consultant now, and I would never have known about this career choice based on a "lower-tiered" post-secondary education.

We are aware of the dangers of putting children into educational tracks in elementary and high school, but the phenomenon is still there in higher education. We are automatically discounting the experience and professionalism of students based on their educational "track."