Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why is My Dad Paying for This Dad's College Degree?

I'm currently attending a community college where tuition is only $1,000/semester plus up to about $250 for books. As a commuter living 10 miles from the school and commutes to school twice a week, I pay about $100 in gas per semester. I'm up to about $1,350 for each semester I attend full time.

That's not a lot. In fact, working my part-time job, I can make that money in four to six weeks.

Now, attending a community college is different. There are usually several adults in each of my classes who have either decided to go back to school or perhaps have never attended college. One such gentlemen who is in his late 20's is working on earning his Associate's degree and move on to another school to earn his Bachelor's in the next semester or so.

He has over 60 credits. And still hasn't graduated with an AA. That means that he did not follow a degree plan and took classes he did not need and/or changed majors once or twice.

He has a kid. There's nothing wrong with having a kid, but this person told me that he is not married (but lives with) the child's mother.

He's a waiter. He told me that he makes about $100 a shift but only works a couple times a week because he doesn't really enjoy it.

And he's getting government assistance.

He told me that he and his wife (who he is not married to but refers to as his wife) "figured out" that if he files as a single father, he basically gets to go to school for free.

Only, it's not free. It might be free to him, but it's not free for everyone.

In fact, I believe it's people like my dad who pay for that dad's college with a little something called taxes.

Look, I'm a middle-class kid, but my parent's are not sending me to an expensive school. I chose to attend a community college because it's affordable. My parents and I can pay for the tuition with cash. I am working a part time job to help pay for things like textbooks and gas. I also applied for and earned privately funded scholarships from different businessmen in town.

Meanwhile, my dad works away in order to pay not just for his kid's college education, but for this guy's college tuition too.

That's so not cool.

Who decided not to get a college degree right out of high school? When there was no kid involved? When there weren't so many financial obligations? Who decided not to get married but file separately from their child's mother in order to receive government assistance? Who is capable of making the money they need to pay for a semester's tuition in just 14 shifts?

Yup. My classmate.

But instead he's freeloading.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned here, but I think one of them is this: College is not a right. It's a privilege.

Going to college is not a right that everyone gets. Earning a college degree takes time, diligence, and (ahem) money. If you don't have those to give, you don't need to go to college. End of story.

There are ways to go to college on a budget:

  1. Take less classes per semester to spread out the cost -- that way you can work full time while in school
  2. Attend an inexpensive community college
  3. Earn scholarships (with your merit, not your "financial need")
  4. Shop around and look for the best education for your dollar
  5. Stick with one degree plan and only take classes you need. 
It's not everyone's destiny to end up in college. And it's certainly not everyone's right.

When will we get that in our heads? 

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