Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Son, There's a Place for Everything, and it's called College

I spent a lot of time emailing last Friday back and forth with an old law school friend, and one of the main topics of conversation was college and what we were planning on doing about it. He has some more time to plan, as his daughter is still in pre-school, so the discussion was more about the boys and what Husband and I had in mind. Not that we, too, don't have a lot of time to think about this stuff, but it does come up not all that infrequently; the boys are interested in what their lives as adults will look like, and I think that's healthy.

Anyway, in the series of emails, my friend questioned our resolve to put pretty strict guidelines on where the boys went to school and (to a lesser extent) what they studied when they got there. So, I'm on my soapbox: are you ready? Here's pretty much what I wrote on Friday:

I am perfectly willing to make distinctions in what we will pay for. Something like MIT + physics or Chicago + economics makes sense to me, but Harvard + English does not. Will I accept an English major out of UT? Maybe, although I'd rather it was a double major with math throw in there as well. Why all of this? Because in the end, an English degree from Harvard isn’t worth ½ of what we’d pay for it. The tuition inflation makes that so more than anything else. I used to think college was all about learning who you were and doing what you love. Now I know it’s about spending someone else’s money.

In a way this decision is the same as the one of public vs. private school right now. The boys have gone to good private schools, and we’ve discovered that they aren’t any better than our public school – so why on earth did we pay for it!? How much your kid learns has much more to do with parenting than it does with the school you choose. Within reason of course – I’m not comparing some inner-city high school to Choate – but really, it’s true. Good parents have kids who are curious about the world and who learn from everything they do; school is just part of that. As for college: a lot of college is what you make of it. I want to raise a child who is prepared to squeeze every last drop out of UT – who is curious and motivated and aware of what’s going on around him. And one who knows the value of a dollar, both his own and his parents’ money. That child is ready for college, and ready to be an adult.

My cousin’s child started college this month; he’s going to the local state university and living at home. It’s not the greatest school on earth, but he chose it over better private schools. He is wise enough to know that he can avoid putting himself and his family in debt, while still getting the best possible education he’s capable of getting. Not because the school is perfect, but because he’s going to look high and low for every bit of knowledge he can find. In other words, they raised their son to be an adult. That’s a he!! of a lot better attitude to have than the one of snobby entitlement with which I went off to college.

I have to tell you: I’m getting more like this as I get older, not less. 18 years in Texas has apparently knocked some sense into the idiot girl from upstate NY.

Make sense to anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


Anonymous said...

(I do not accept that you were ever an 'idiot'.)

The only reason there is room on that particular soapbox is because I stepped aside for you. *wink*

Our oldest is in college and the younger is a senior in HS. We were/are perfectly willing to make distinctions in what we will pay for. *!!!!*

I would *love* to talk 'college' with you sometime....no plans to get to your town right now but, as you said, you have a lot of time to think about it.


Tari said...

Definitely would love to!

I have another story that has inspired me - happened to my next-door neighbor at work (when I actually use the office they have provided me, and not my dining room table). Her son (brilliant, great kid) received a full academic scholarship to UT and a partial to Rice. He's always been a math and science guy, so his parents said they were glad to pay for Rice. Then, the Spring of senior year, he starting waffling: maybe he wanted to do liberal arts instead. His parents said "great! please go to UT where that will be free for you." He chose Rice and bio-engineering instead, and now in his 2nd year is happy as can be. His parents didn't order him around, but they helped guide his choices in the same way I want to with my boys. Good stuff.

Elizabeth Channel said...

I agree with you.

That's all I can say.

I was a grad school snob and it did me NO GOOD WHATSOEVER CAREER WISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sara said...

I have mixed feelings on this. My parents always said they would pay "in state undergrad tuition" toward whatever college I chose. I got into Northwestern, and they said I could go, but set a limit on what they'd pay for. My only complaint (and really, they paid for everything, so that makes me a big whiner) is that when I chose to go to the University of Wisconsin, they then said I could not major in history if they were paying for my tuition. In retrospect, I guess I could have just walked away from the money. I would have liked the chance to major it what I wanted to major in, but at the same time, I was not paying with my own money. Things in life are never free, and so I "sold out" my major to get tuition paid by my parents. I'm quite grateful to not have student loans (from Northwestern or elsewhere), but I still think it would have been nice to feel as though I could have chosen the major I wanted. Good luck figuring all of this out...I'm happy to be years away from it, too!