I was in a conversation the other day with someone who seemed really intelligent an accomplished. I was quite enjoying it, but when the conversation turned to their kids and college, I was surprised by this person’s philosophy. She said something to the effect of:
I told my daughter to just take the classes that interest her. There’s no need to focus on a direction.
I’m paraphrasing, but that’s how I remember it. (Some amount of wine may have been involved.) I found this really surprising, but I was in a situation where I was trying to be on my very best behavior so I didn’t stir the pot and call attention to it. I was surprised that the topic went in that direction because my wife and I had a similar conversation a couple days before. We both agreed that if we have a Lazy Man Jr. (or juniorette) and that person is going to receive any financial aid from us, there should be a definitive college plan in place.
What kind of college plan? Our thought is that the student should earn a degree in a field that leads to being able to pay off the cost of college – and makes it worthwhile. Personally, I’d prefer STEM fields – (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). My wife went to pharmacy, partially because it does pay well for amount of school required. That was certainly one my thoughts when I went into computer science. There will always be a demand for those able to work in information security, since an increasing number of businesses are updating their security software and using technology daily. I do not necessary have to work with an IT firm, as nearly every major company in the country now hires its own IT staff. My current degree can lead me into the public sector, perhaps working with government or police agencies, or private sector with a multinational corporation. It is estimated that over 3 million jobs will be available in the industry by 2018, making it an excellent degree for those looking for job security. I met a mortician once who said that the literally did the cost-benefit analysis of every profession he could think of and found that morticians are paid extremely well for the amount of study. I had to hand it to him, that seemed extremely smart.
On the other hand, I know a person with a Ph.D. from a top 10 university, and her career doesn’t use that skill. It’s one of those fields that you ask, “What can you do with that?” And the answer is usually, “Well, I can teach others it.” I don’t know what her current job pays, but I wonder if it covers the 10-12 years of school. I can’t imagine it does. Fortunately, I don’t think money is an issue for the family.
My wife and I were talking about this and she mentioned she saw a news report on TV that a kids are moving back home with their parents after college. That’s what happens if you don’t have a job that’s in demand in a down economy. I’m sure there are many out there STEM degrees who can find jobs, but I believe that it’s much tougher out there for the history major to find a job than the software engineer.
We thought about what we’d do if we were ever in such a situation (talk about putting the cart before the horse, eh?) The news report suggested that it may be best to pay first month’s rent and a deposit to push the son or daughter out of the nest. (Presumably they have a job and can afford it and aren’t just staying home to save tons of money.) My thought was to pair that incentive with another one that makes it more difficult to stay. My wife and I agreed that the child would have to pay rent upon coming back home after college. My thought was that the rent should start off cheap (maybe $250, but this depends on the area where you live), but set it so that it increases 5% every month. (I am picking 5% at random, choose a number that best suits your timeline for getting the
leech loved one out of your house.) By the end of the year they are paying nearly $450. At the end of the second year it is $806 a month. The idea is to make it fiscally beneficial for a move and to take away the incentive for staying at home.
Have some disjointed thoughts about kids and college? I’d love to read them in the comments.