Parents have been walking a tight rope this past decade. They know that without a college education, their children's future employment opportunities will be severely limited. On the other hand, taking out tens of thousands of dollars in loans will only saddle their kids with a near lifetime of debt. Where they see high post-graduation unemployment, their teenage children see an essential rite of passage. It's an important conversation, but a tough one to have when both sides present valid points.
A good conversation starter might actually be a film that just opened at the Sundance Film Festival called The Ivory Tower, by filmmaker Andrew Rossi. It likely won't hit local theatres and DVD/Blu-ray until later this year, but keep your eyes open for this one if you're planning for college, or just curious about the current issues experienced by those receiving a college education.
Rossi's goal was to spend time at various universities in order to determine what students were experiencing. He really enjoyed his own education, but found himself middle aged and potentially disconnected from what students were going through today. According to Andrew, he found "Serious structural problems in higher education." Problems that include a culture of partying, little growth in knowledge base by graduation, and 68% of students failing to graduate in four years.
If there's any advice that I can give, specifically on this subject, it's for you to think long term, similarly as you do with your investments. A college education is required for most decent paying jobs today, and is likely still the best path for most high school graduates. With that being said, choose a college that you and the student can afford, and avoid the 'Keeping up with the Joneses' mentality. The important thing to remember is that going to college is just the first of many adult milestones; but by taking on too much debt to finance at the first milestone, the rest will be directly affected. We're now seeing people in their mid-20's and 30's who are delaying or refusing to get married, have kids, and buy homes because they simply can't afford the costs.
(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).