America has taken education for granted. Sure, we’ve all heard that before. I can’t say this thought ever bothered me much until I took a trip to Kenya and was hit in the face with my own lack of appreciation for what I’d been handed my whole life through my education system.
I was standing on a dirt airstrip with a bush pilot when over the horizon we began to see two forms emerge. As they came closer we recognized them as Massai men. They walked over to talk to us and told us the errand they were on. One of the men was checking out a school for his children. His friend came along with him to keep him company. They had already walked for 8 miles and had 3 miles left before they reached the school. And then, of course they had the 11-mile trek back home to look forward to.
If he decided that this school was good for his children, they would be making that walk every day just to receive a basic education.
I was astonished.
I struggled to get up in the morning to drive a short ways to my high school. The determination of these children to walk that far on a daily basis floored me.
When I came back to the States I looked at education through a different lens and was amazed to see how ungrateful so many of my fellow students were. Somewhere along the line school had become a burden to them rather than a privilege. I believe that this mindset is pervasive throughout our country.
And as with most things that we take for granted, we’ve lost any interest in investing in and spending money on our education. Right?
Well, maybe not… The trillions of dollars of student loan debt we find ourselves sinking in would seem to tell a different story.
And herein lies a peculiar discrepancy. Students take education for granted and then throw themselves into a sea of debt for college that will burden their financial lives for years to come.
In the decade following August 2003, college tuition has increased by nearly 80%. Comparatively, in that same time frame, the cost of clothing has increased by about 6%; housing costs by about 23%; and medical care costs by about 43%. Those percentages certainly seem a little out of balance.
According to data from College Board, Tuition, Fees, and Room and Board costs at a public, four-year school were $7,833 for the 1975 school year. In the 2015 school year that number has rocketed to $19,548. This is an increase of nearly 150%. Private nonprofit four-year schools have increased 170% in that same time frame!
Meanwhile, back at home, the U.S. Census Bureau, records that the average income of a family has only increased by 37% since 1975… not nearly the increase needed to cover the sky-rocketing cost of college.
With this data in mind, one would conclude that the U.S. does, in fact, highly value education. And yet, at the individual student level, I really don’t think we do.
So, what conclusions can we make from this?
First, it’s time we did appreciate education. Plain and simple, education really is a privilege. And it does pay off. Our friends at the Census Bureau record that a householder who has earned a bachelor’s degree makes on average $50,000 more a year than a householder that only has a high school diploma.
Second, be smart about your college choice. Don’t rush into a huge investment without considering the possibilities (how do I make a smart college decision? You may ask… no worries – you’ve come to the right place. We’ll teach you how to be college-savvy). There are a plethora of colleges to choose from ensuring that you can find just the right fit for you. There are also smart and efficient ways to pay for college that you should research before saddling yourself with $100,000 of debt.
Third, take advantage of your college experience. Soak in as much as possible. Talk to your professors. Take interesting classes that aren’t in your major. In short, get your money’s worth!
Not sure that college is even the right thing for you? Stay tuned – we’ve got a blog coming to help you think through that very question.