October 31, 2005

What is A College Degree Worth

The struggle to make a decison regarding the right school for my son is wearing me down. I am torn and worn as the saying used to go, or maybe it is Worn and Torn, just ask Elder of Ziyon. ;)

He has spent the past two years in a special Hebrew immersion program. He loves it and I have been so very pleased with the education he has been receiving. The program has been great. So when I found out that there was an opportunity to continue this program and to build upon it I had to investigate it.

It would be a shame to let these two years go to waste. Ok, I don't think that they would go to waste but the reality is that the developmentally he is at a place in which it is much easier to learn a foreign language. I think that there is so much to be gained by being bilingual. When you speak a different language you see the world differently and it opens your mind to new possibilities.

But the chance to continue the Hebrew immersion is not enough to secure a vote of confidence. What sold me on the school was the academics. It offers so much, so very much more than I had access to and that excites me.

Yet, the price of the school concerns me. I cannot do for one child and not for the other and I do not see how I can look at this as being any less than a decades long financial commitment. Add to that my feelings about college and I wonder what this is worth. What price am I willing to pay for my children's education.

And then I shake my head and smile. My prince and my princess, they are royalty to me. They are everything. I have so very many hopes and dreams for them and while I am careful not to spoil them with material gifts there are some things that I would give them without hesitation and an education is one of them.

What finer gift can I provide. What better way to shower them with my love and affection than to provide them the best that I can in an education. There is no replacement for a good education. It offers the keys to life. As hokey as that sounds I believe that.

I am responsible for trying to help them navigate life as menschen and I know that this school does offer programs that strive to teach the children how to be citizens of the world, to engage in tikkun olam and to do what they can to make life better for everyone.

But part of the lesson of life is found in consumption and financial responsibility. Is it financially responsible for me to take this on. It could impact me in many ways for many years and it could impinge upon my ability to do other things that they might enjoy, but it might not.

They both are smarter than I am. I see it, I know it. I am not a stupid man and I can generally hold my own, but they exceed me and that makes my heart swell with pride. How can I not be proud. How can I not smile at my progeny and how can I deny them this opportunity.

In case you are wondering about the relation of the title of the post here is how it ties in. I have come to believe that while a college degree is quite important where it comes from does not have as much distinction education wise as some people would like us to believe.

You may have a degree from Harvard, but after a little time in the working world that degree means less and less. However, the Harvard grad will likely have a better network of contacts to rely upon than others and that is worth something.

There are a lot of very fine musicians, writers and artists in the world whose works are never seen, never read and never heard because they cannot make the connections they need to get to that next place. It is not nice and it is not fair, but the reality is that who you know is sometimes more important than what you know.

My hope and fervent desire is that my children always earn their stripes but I would be lying if I said that I wasn't interested in trying to make their lives easier.

8 comments:

Z said...

Funny...that's my job in a nutshell. To spread the word that the college degree is not necessarily the be all and end all to ones earning potential. We also let kids know that 2 year degrees are just as good if not better when it comes right down to it.

Helene said...

I'm feeling a little nostalgic here. My 18 yr. old left home a month ago for the "Big U." I homeschooled her from the get-go. I wanted her to have the best possible education and I couldn't find ANY school or institution that had it all, or better than what we could give her at home. I have no regrets whatsoever. My daughter is now a University Junior at top-tier nationally ranked school. She has all the smarts and middot to do well and she's adjusted beautifully to being away from home for the first time. But most importantly, she's extremely well-grounded in her academics and her limudei kodesh and in her character education. The decision to say no to a k - 12 education elsewhere was a difficult one to make. However, the one-on-one education my daughter ultimately got was the most extraordinary gift anyone could have given her. And yes indeed, she's profoundly and globally "gifted" in conventional "eduspeak." The choice isn't just between public school and day school/yeshiva. Maybe the best alternative is NEITHER.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Z,

There is no one way to go through life. It is an important lesson.

Hi Helene,

I admire those who are able to homeschool their children and do it well. It is not an easy thing.

Ezzie said...

Jack - someone showed me an interesting study about a year ago, I think from Harvard: Apparently, where you graduate in your class is far more representative of how successful you'll be than what school you go to. Tops in a state U is better than middle of the pack at Harvard... It was a really interesting study overall.

If your kids will be very successful in the better school, it's worth it. Otherwise, let them be the tops in the school that's not as great.

Jack's Shack said...

Hi Ezzie,

That sounds like an interesting study. If you remember the name of it let me know, I'd be interested in reading it.

Ezzie said...

I really have no clue, it was so long ago... I'll ask a friend to see if he remembers (he showed it to me)

jg said...

I had the same financial conversation with myself four years ago before I transferred my daughter out of an affordable and convenient school that was failing in their responsibility to educate my daughter. I moved her to a school that I really cannot afford and I will be paying for for years after she has left home. However, it has been a great experience for her so far, both academically and socially. She's growing as a citizen, a person, a researcher, a performer; she questions everything, carries herself well, communicates well. It's been worth every dime. Every child is different and finding the right situation for your child is key - whether that is a large school, small school, expensive school, home schooling - every situation has it's particular pros and cons. You are on the right track in your thinking. Educating the WHOLE CHILD is more important than striving singularly for any one "success" (like admission to a fancy college).

And, I can tell you from personal experience, as long as you don't go so far as to put yourself in debtor's prison, you'll find a way to make the finances work.

Just my two cents. :)

Jack's Shack said...

I appreciate that.