This afternoon, my young high school grad and I went to visit a financial aid officer at the college he will be attending come fall. She was very nice, but very frank. There are no grants or scholarships available to students of average (or even above-average-but-not-quite-genius) intelligence and moderate means. "Get a loan," is what she said. I am ever grateful for the meager amount the federal government will loan my son to be repaid after college, and ever grateful for that said meager amount will cover the majority of in-state state school tuition, but really.
Can I be honest here? If you are a white boy (or girl) with a 3.5 gpa (which is pretty smart if you ask me) from a family of reasonable (i.e., not impoverished) means, you are out of luck in the financial aid department. And by financial aid I mean scholarships, i.e. free, or discounted, school. I'm certain there are some exceptions to the rule for very specialized skills and very specific areas of study, but by-and-large, if you are neither a genius nor very needy, you will have a buttload of debt to pay back after you graduate. There is just no getting around it.
I think that white boys really get hit hard in this area. Maybe that's because I have white boys and so I have a limited view of reality. But I've seen it enough with friends and family to know that unless mom and dad set up a college fund upon the event of junior's birth, or dad makes enough bucks to fund college out of pocket, most white boys will have the equivalent of a mortgage to pay by the time they are conferred their academic degrees. Just in time to commence their real life...a time when they might consider being married, applying for a real mortgage, having children.
I hate that many young professionals today are starting out behind the eight ball. Many are having to delay the commencement of real life to pay for their years of education. Not that those years of education are not necessary for a career, but at what cost?
I especially hate to see young women graduating from college with mountains of debt because unless they marry well (do people still use that phrase?) young women will spend many of their potential child-bearing years paying off debt, and then many years of their children's young years working as well. Many women find that they would prefer to stay at home and not have a career so that they can raise their children, but because of all the debt they incurred in college, they can't.
I so wish that young people would spend time in discernment before making that automatic step into college. In our American culture people assume they will go to college, which is not all bad if you want college (and can afford it). But what if you really would prefer to be a mom? Or what if you would rather be a police officer? After four years of college and a mortgage size loan to pay off, not many men can afford that. And we need police officers, and fire men, and carpenters. Most young people don't think before they leap, so by the time they make the realization that college maybe isn't for them, it's too late. They have debt they must begin paying off starting 60 days after their last quarter of school.
My sons both need to have degrees for their fields of interest. I hope my oldest son will land a nice paying job in his field (environmental policy and management) and be perfectly able to pay back his debt. My second son, however, wants to be a teacher. I am working hard to help him save money by boarding him at home and trying hard to convince him he should stay at home, but he will still have at least $20,000 in debt the cheap way. It's going to take a teacher quite a while and quite a huge chunk of his paycheck to pay back that debt.