Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Thursday, June 09, 2011



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.



  1. It really depends on the college...Big Brother got enough scholarships from his university (not a public university and not in-state) that he/we only have to pay for his room, board, books and expenses. All but $500 of his tuition is covered. 2 of those scholarships require a service commitment but he is aware that he's lucky to have them and has honored that commitment. He did not have genius SAT's or great grades (3.5ish average in HS) and he too is a future teacher. So it is out there, though I agree with you that white boys do wind up with the short end of the stick in most cases. I'd say it works that way in college admissions as well. Has he explored options for scholarships through other sources?

  2. We have, Barb. It's a really big school, and tuition is already pretty low, so there is not as much money available to account for the mark-up you find in higher-priced institutions. There is also not much in terms of service scholarships because it's a secular school. And we have absolutely no ethnicity to claim. Just a plain old, moderately smart, moderately wealthy, white bread boy. ;-)

  3. When I was looking at colleges, I found that ACT scores were really what made the difference, not so much GPA, because so many schools use weighted grades. I had a 3.6 or so, but my ACT was good, so that led to scholarships. But I noticed that the (one) Public Ohio School I applied to, they gave me *no* money, whereas the private schools worked a lot harder to make it affordable for me. I didn't have any loans when I finished.

  4. I'm with you, Barb. My husband, a brilliant man (but lazy student), didn't qualify for any scholarships or grants. He graduated from law school in 1998 and we are still paying for it. THis is because he is a dedicated prosecutor. He'd have to cross the aisle to defense for us to be rolling in the dough.
    One thing your son might look into is teaching in an underserved area for a period of time. Some of these areas used to offer student loan repayment assistance to entice young teachers.

  5. I hear you because this is what my youngest brother is going through right now. He is scrambling to find a job/jobs that will enable him to start paying off the loans he had to take out to cover school.

    Rob also sees a lot of young professionals in debt in his line of work. He teaches Family Medicine residents, but he has a hard time keeping them in Family Medicine. They all need to make big money to cover the HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars in debt from med school. One resident is almost $200,000 in debt from loans. That is craziness!

  6. I'm not sure how things are in your state but in Texas, Associate degrees from Community colleges transfer to state universities seamlessly as the first two years! I recommend everyone get their associates degree first! So much cheaper at the community college and a good rounded education.

    My sister lives in Georgia and they have the best scenario - as long as the student maintains a B average, their tuition will be reimbursed at the end of the semester!!

    I'm now finishing a masters and thanks to community college, some small scholarships (under $1000), and some help from my parents, I will be graduating without a penny of debt. But I feel for the students that do!

  7. And I also don't think it's fair that just because I'm white and both of parents have college degrees that I am overlooked for scholarships! At least I'm a girl lol. But having gone to a Women's University...I had a lot of competition ;)

  8. Please check out this link: it might help -


    Hope it does help. There are many corporations and philanthropists with scholarships to give to worthy young people, and there are some for Catholics, too. (The Knights of Columbus have a few.)

    I agree; going into debt should be avoided if at all possible. In today's economy, it's even harder to dig out! Rosemary

  9. P.S. - I used to work at a wonderful community college, and I agree that getting an associate's degree there, and using your 2-year GPA as a springboard to scholarships can be a less expensive and wiser way to an education. --- Rosemary

  10. Sometimes I think God brought us to GA just for college and the HOPE scholarship! Otherwise, I don't know what we'd do (other than try the ideas given by everyone else). We're committed to our kids graduating debt-free because my husband spent many years paying for our 2 college educations and his own JD, and we remember how hard that made everything else.

    I'm happy to say that Katie just graduated debt-free except for her little bit of credit card debt that she accumulated! When she was making the college decision, we used a loan calculator to see how much she would owe and how much she would need to get paid to pay it all back within 10 years. It was ridiculous and she quickly opted for a GA school instead of the pricey, out-of-state!

    Now that the economy has tanked, I'm more determined than ever, though they keep whittling away at the HOPE. We'll see what happens with the younger 3.

  11. We did open an account for our oldest (14 years in April) a few months after he was born. There is NO WAY it's going to be enough to even cover 2 years of in-state tuition. I would prefer my kids not have a huge load of debt upon graduation, too.

    My hubby had a maneageable amount of debt that we paid off in our first years of marriage; I was fortunate that my parents were able to pay for undergraduate schooling and I received a scholarship for Grad School.

    During my collegiate years, the only scholarships I received were those awarded within my college of study. They covered books, barely.

    Anyway, good post and food for thought. It's never too early to plan.

  12. My 23 y/o white-boy son just sent in the last check to pay off his $20K college debt. I know not everyone would want to do this, but he saved BIG money at our local Catholic university by commuting from home all 4 years. And he was hired from an internship he had in our city as well, and lived at home this first year out of college. He maintains a most active social life and still helps out at home (a condition for living here!) by taking his dish turn, doing his own laundry, and driving his siblings to school and activities. Most rewarding for me, tho is the good example he has been for his younger brothers. He takes time out to play baseball or air hockey with them, and actually enjoys it. This was all his idea, and it has actually worked.


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!