In 2003 I began speaking to clients about planning for their children’s college education. I also learned much about their expectations of their children going to college. Though my observations were in no way scientific, I have noticed a significant change in the way many of my clients think about college and the way many of their children speak about college. I was raised in a house with two parents who both went to college and both had master’s degrees. Growing up, college was viewed as an extension of High School. It wasn’t a question of if I would go but rather where I would go. To question otherwise would have been unthinkable at the time. Fast Forward to today and many of my clients and their children are doing exactly that. These conversations have nothing to do with the intelligence of their children but rather the wisdom in potentially dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars to go and get an “education” peppered in with a whole lot of partying.
Why are parents and kids considering alternatives to a traditional college education?
I believe there are many factors that have added to educated parents and teenagers questioning the cost benefit of going to college, or at least going in a historically “traditional” way. I have identified a short list of some of my own observations.
- The runaway cost of receiving a college education, and the debt load associated with that.
- The digital age where information can be right at our fingertips. Who would have thought that a Harvard Professors could teach an online class where hundreds of thousands or even millions could learn from them?
- Two-year schools have seemed to more nimbly adjusted their course work to producing the skills that Corporate America is looking for.
- Our kids are being raised in a society where we can have almost anything we desire, delivered to our door within 24 hours by simply tapping our phone a couple times.
These are four quick examples, but the reality is this list could go on and on. My point is times are changing. I am giving no commentary on what path is right for each student or family, but I am posing the question to you, should the way you financially plan for college change? Or should you even plan for college at all?
In my experience, every parent has the desire to have an educated child who has every opportunity in the world. As a parent to three children myself, I know that none of us are perfect. But my view of the world and college has directed me to do some of my own planning apart from conventional 529 Plans. Flexibility being a very important desire within my personal plan.
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