Here’s an interesting project to try with your teenager. Look up the career field he or she is most interested in right now (yes, this is likely to change, but let’s go with the current choice). Find out how much on average that field is likely to pay your teen, and how likely it is that your teen will be able to find work in that field. Rather than use a site where the specific career is being promoted, try using the government figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics*.
Armed with these figures, now go to the Web site of a college that offers the degree your teen would need (if indeed he/she would even need a degree to go into that field). Find out how much college would cost for the specific degree desired. Take the amount given and increase it by 6.6% times the number of years until your teen is college age, because right now, that’s the average annual rate of increase in college tuition and fees**. Now, take a good look at the number on your calculator.
Question: how long will it take your teen to make back that money based on the wages he/she can expect to make in the field of his/her choice? This is a key question, one that every parent needs to ask themselves and their teen. And if you and your teen don’t have enough cash saved up to pay for college and will have to resort to loans, the ability to make back this money is crucial to the teen’s future financial solvency, much less financial freedom.
I realize I haven’t told you to deduct scholarships from the college costs. That’s because you have no way of knowing how much, if any, scholarship money your teen will receive. We’re looking at the worst case scenario here, because you need to know the bottom line.
Amazingly, most people don’t think this far ahead. In fact, most colleges and universities don’t encourage them to do so, preferring to push loans (both government and private) on them instead. This includes some Christian colleges; I learned this from my son’s experience at a Christian college.
This simple exercise could change the way you and your teen look at both attending college and choosing a career. And if you know anything about how our country is faring in this global economy so far***, you realize that decisions like what career to go into and what college, if any, to attend are more important than ever.
** http://abcnews.go.com/Business/LifeStages/wireStory?id=3759797 [link no longer available]
*** http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/80fa0a2c-49ef-11dc-9ffe-0000779fd2ac.html[link no longer available]
Copyright 2008 Barbara Frank / Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank is the mother of four homeschooled-from-birth children ages 14-24, a freelance writer/editor, and the author of “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, “The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling,”and “Homeschooling Your Teenagers.” To visit her Web site, “The Imperfect Homeschooler,” go to www.cardamompublishers.com.