- My oldest son is only a senior in high school, so I cannot yet claim to speak from family experience.
- Those friends of mine who have children away at college or are involved in college ministry may not like my suggestion below.
- If you are a college student already living away at college, you may consider the thoughts in this blog out-of-touch and shake your head in sympathy at this uncool, middle-aged guy who just doesn't get it.
Nonetheless, I would like to suggest another option for college rather than the typical sending of an eighteen year-old off to university. Why not consider keeping your son or daughter home for at least another year or two and have them attend a local college? Please realize I am not condemning those who choose to send their high school graduate off to college the next fall. Rather, I'm offering another "course option" for doing college that I have been observing others doing with success. I have three reasons for suggesting this: giving additional time for maturity, avoiding huge costs and debt, and deepening the generational ties.
Additional time for maturity - My history of teaching mathematics at four different colleges or universities over the years has exposed me to a great number of college freshman. Over these years I have found that many underclassmen were simply unprepared for the academic and social pressures one faces at a typical university. Perhaps your child will not fail to the degree that the students in this article did (note that the author then suggests what I am proposing, especially for the financial reasons addressed below). However, I have counseled or heard of many young people in the church who wandered aimlessly through their first year or two of college, wasting much time and resources, or had a major fall into sin or immorality.
A great deal of even natural maturing typically occurs between the ages of eighteen to twenty. A year or two of taking classes from home allows young people time to have their interests cemented, gradually tests their faithfulness and grants them greater independence versus the "all-at-once" approach of sending them away at 18, and gives parents a greater knowledge of what they are learning and the influences upon them at college. Having a young person work before going off to college or while taking classes at home often not only provides financial resources but training and direction. The Lord would only allow those twenty years old and upward to go out to war (see Numbers 1). Perhaps before sending our arrows out into the gates of the enemy (Psalm 127) we should consider more fully if they are sufficiently ready for the battle they will face?
Avoiding huge costs and debts - The cost of higher education has increased so dramatically in the past decade and a half -- up by 63% at public schools and 47% at private -- that more students have to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to attend, ensuring that many of them are paying off those loans for years to come. Many finish college with this enormous debt and/or limited job opportunities, and guess where many of them end up after college graduation? That's right - back home with their parents!
So why not stay home a little while longer rather than possibly having to return later? For it is possible to graduate from college debt-free. Living at home avoids the huge costs of room and board. The tuition from taking classes at a local community college or regional campus of a university often can be significantly lower than a full-fledged university. Working while you are taking classes not only helps you to keep from borrowing money but provides you with valuable work experience and can give ready application for what it being learned in the classroom.Deepening generational ties - This rationale is more speculative and idealistic than the other two and thus harder to give statistics for or even explain. It certainly is open for discussion, and I am sure some will disagree with me. But here is what I mean.
Our mobile culture, where 60% of Americans move every five years, does not foster strong ties between parents and children anyway. Whereas a century ago as a rule of thumb grown children would often be located near their parents, today that seems rarely to be the case. Much of this can be attributed to economic factors. At the turn into the twentieth century, parent-controlled education, family farms and small businesses created an environment that kept many children near home to continue in their parents' footsteps. Today such things as our technological advances, state-run schooling, formation of large companies and factories, and women entering the workforce mean many venture far from home to pursue education and a career. Though the geographic distance between parents and their offspring is by no means a measure of how close familial bonds are, this modern day tendency to not be located near parents is symptomatic of our individualistic versus family-oriented society. Young people hardly think about whether they should try to stay closer to home, for it is just assumed they have to go where the job takes them. Contributing to this tendency for the generations to be disconnected is the artificially-enforced rule that youth must leave their homes to go to college just because they have turned eighteen.
Waiting another year or two when a young person has become an adult rather than sending him off to college as a child would seem to help deepen generational bonds. The young person, now working and paying more his way through life (versus being at school for two years on loans where he does not really "feel the pain" of how much things cost) will appreciate more what his parents have done for him and the heritage he enjoys. The parent will not only know his son or daughter as a child but will have seen him or her walk through daily decisions and difficulties into adulthood, and will be able to send with more confidence. Siblings would get to spend more time with one another and hopefully strengthen bonds between themselves as well. In our case, my oldest leaving now would mean our youngest child will have only had three years with him in the house. Of course she would not then know him as well or even remember him living here.
Again, I know this approach is not for everybody. An eighteen year-old may be perfectly ready for college and he and his parents can righteously choose for him to stay home or go to college. This blog is merely giving a suggestion. And okay, I will make a confession. I am having a hard time letting go of my firstborn. But with God as my witness, it is not because, full of sentimentality, I do not want to see him grow up. It is simply because I am enjoying watching him do so. As I sat eating lunch with him today while he was on break from a job he has with a local business, I rejoiced at this privilege. When it's time, we'll shoot our arrow. As we draw back the bowstring, we are just trying to be sure that, by God's grace, it will be a straight shot that misses avoidable obstacles, is not weighed down, and remembers the bow from which it was propelled.