A few years ago I wrote a story about how my wife and I don’t save for our kids college expenses. It was too wordy, in hindsight, but it outlined how instead of putting the $1,000 or so we could afford to stash away for each of them into a college savings plan, we choose to invest in their childhood by traveling the world, allowing them to experience different countries and cultures and enrolling them in classes they express an interest in taking.
It was the first story I’d ever written that went even came close to viral. The Huffington Post reran it. It generated much conversation, resulted in a fair bit of name calling (as is to be expected during the current decline of civility), landed me on HuffPost Live and eventually got me several nice quotes in a thoughtful Washington Post Sunday Magazine article on the same subject.
I stand by the piece, every word of it, but for all the excess verbiage, it was ultimately incomplete. If I could rewrite it I would not only make the case against saving for college but also the case for vocational schools.
Essentially, with a combination of bloated tuition price tags and the undeniable fact that college simply isn’t right for every single child, more credence should be give to vocational schools, mentorships and apprenticeships. These are forms of post-secondary education during which young people might learn how to actually do something — a skill or a trade that can help them becombe employable while leaving them with little or no debt.
Granted, a vocational or technical college, or an unpaid apprenticeship, might not be as sexy as time spent attending a four-year university, and there’s no Division I football program to cheer for, but it may be a more pragmatic route for many of our young people after their high school careers are over.
I recently spent three days at the Disney Dreamers Academy surrounded by 100 of the best and brightest high school students from underserved school districts and regions in this country. Some have already started businesses, others are well on their way to doing just that, but all will go on to college and likely be leaders in the public and private sector in a couple of decades time.
College does indeed seem the best path for those teens right now but college is not right for everyone.