Tuesday, May 1, 2012

College: Public or Private?

I heard a story on NPR this morning about the rising costs of liberal arts educations and the question of whether or not these top-tier schools are preparing students for the workplace once they graduate. With the decline in the economy and lack of jobs, many parents, educators and employers question studying Plato and Socrates for four years, while amassing tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no job prospects in sight. While a young person may have a degree in philosophy or French from an elite private college, will his or her counterpart who studied business or engineering at a state university be far more likely to find a job? (For the entire story, see and listen to an excerpt from “Economy Puts Value of Liberal Arts Under Scrutiny.”)

This can be argued both ways and my husband and I can view it from both sides.

Hubby went to a small, private liberal arts college (above). Here he is enjoying that fine education and all it had to offer.

I went to a large state school (above). Sorry, couldn't track down a photo of me in the early 1990s. Count your blessings.

We both majored in English. We’re fortunate to be English majors who are gainfully employed in the corporate world. And, Hubby one-upped me by earning a masters in international diplomacy and commerce. From my alma mater, though. :)

So, when it comes time for our kids to start looking at colleges, we can see the pros and cons of going small-private or large-public. Of course, finances are going to have a huge bearing on the decision. From the time they were babies, I tried to teach them to say, "scholarship." Seriously, if I have to send my kids to a learning center or tutor to bump up test scores, or enroll them in every sports clinic available to get an edge on athletic scholarships, I’ll consider doing it. Education is the foundation for success. I truly believe that.

That being said, mommy and daddy want to retire one day, kids. And we can’t borrow for our retirement. So, be ready to help pay your way. Yes, I’m serious. No, you can’t go to the University of Hawaii and minor in surfing.

What are your thoughts on higher education? Public or private? And for those kids who may not mesh with a 4-year college setting, what are your thoughts on trade schools? Please share!Images from NPR-Boston Radio, Centre College, University of Kentucky and final photo property of JMW A Place to Dwell blog.


Jo said...

I attended a private college and majored in education. It was the right choice for me and my parents were able to support my decision. Fast forward many years and the tuition check I now must sign ... ugh! When my son was looking at schools we set a limit with him early on as well as the financial expectations required from him. His father and I firmly believe that a child who contributes to their education, will have a greater success. While talking college finances, we also stressed to him that in this economy, he would most likely need a graduate degree. Nicholas is doing well and is happy with the choice he made.

These are tough times for many and the need for creativity and cutting corners is a reality!

Just my thoughts ...

sweetpea said...

Husband and I both went to a state school and he has done well with that degree... then you have me who uses that degree to stay home! People think that we are crazy for all we spend on Catholic education, and I constantly defend that but then we are sending first kid to a state school...but there is that wonderful lottery scholarship that only works at a state school! My husband interviews people all the time that have mountains of school debt before they ever start a job...I think he refers to it as a return on investment! We were just reading a wedding announcement in the paper on Sunday where this young wife had gone to a local very expensive private school here, then a very expensive Catholic college and then masters at a very very expensive university... and she is a teacher (my profession when I worked... most underpaid one out there!) This girl or her parents have spent well over 250,000 (maybe in the 3's if no scholarships...) on her education to get paid maybe $30 that first year! Scary!
I do feel that private colleges have a lot to offer and if aide is available, they can be a great investment!

Carla Aston said...

THis is a great topic that many people are wrestling with today. Frankly, paying the extra money for a private education just doesn't seem worth it in today's economy. My son graduated last year from a state school with an engineering degree and had an $80,000 per year job waiting for him from the company he did his internship with. If people have the money and want to do that, then that's their choice. But for families who are planning for retirement or have other needs for those huge academic dollars, a state school is just fine. I think anyone majoring in the arts should be realistic about how they can make money in the future. While some of us who have degrees in the arts are making it, I have a BFA and am an interior designer, if I was graduating today my road would be more difficult. Without real drive and determination, these kids with liberal arts degrees will have a challenging road ahead. My daughter, the photography major included! :)

bellamia said...

Wow, this is a FANTASTIC issue to discuss. Will come back to this when I have more time to write. Good topic :)

Town and Country Mom said...

Our oldest is a sophomore engineering major at a state school that is known for its tough,(weed-out) hard science departments and its high job-placement success rate. He ticked all the boxes (high SAT, good grades, Eagle Scout, sports) and had a full scholarship his freshman year. At the end of spring semester, though, his gpa was 2.8, and, as a result, we have paid for this year out of pocket. It has been painful, but our hopes are still high for a good job upon graduation. (It also looks like there is a possibility that part of his scholarship will be re-instated. Please God.) Our younger two children are much more likely to major in liberal arts, and I am nervous about that. We have some great in-state options here in SC, but it seems to me the reality is that the jobs are not there. It does seem to me that many private schools are so well endowed that they are able to make the financials work for the students they want.

AEOT said...

I heard this on NPR the other morning as well. B and I are saving like MAD people in order to pay for SYT and baby #2 to be able to go to college (I really need to do a post on this) and the amt we're saving will only cover an in state public school, UGGG!! We'd love for them to be able to go anywhere they want but that won't be the case based on finances. They're going to have to chose the best value for their money. I don't want them graduating with a ton of debt and then having them become a social worker and never, ever be able to pay that off. It's too hard for them later on as they're trying to save for a house, their own kids' education, etc.

I can see the value in both public and private schools and we'll just have to re-evaluate once we know more about what our children want out of life. I can tell you that the minute they are doing poorly in school that they will either have to pay for it themselves or drop out because I am NOT spending my money on someone who is choosing not to work hard. That's their job for 4 years and I expect them to do well at it or I will fire them, essentially. Mean, maybe, but practical. My biggest concern is how fast the cost of education is rising and, who, if anyone will actually be able to pay for it without difficulty in the future. It's been rising exponentially for the past 10 years and pretty soon it is only going to be possible for very, very few to pay for it without hundreds of thousands of dollars piling up in debt, and that's just not right.