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Re-thinking College

Re-thinking college is something all of us with college-aged kids should be doing! With sky-rocketing debt associated with a degree and a mushy job market, the exponentially rising costs of college, it might not be the best way to launch our young adults. But, where does that leave us? As I’ve said before, we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution, and with any revolution, there are high costs and great opportunities if you know where to look. This article will explore ways to hack college and look at viable options to do alongside or instead of college!

What are the Colleges Teaching?

I was talking to a relative this weekend. Both of his kids went to the top-rated public business school in America. They both said they learned little past what they taught in high school, now believe that socialism is better than capitalism, and have embraced a pro-choice stance. For the time and money involved, their conservative, Christian, pro-life parents are disappointed with the values, education, and return on their college investment.

The College Experience

From where I sit, I believe that the college “experience” – both educational and social- is mostly a thing of the past. Colleges and Universities are merely bastions of social reform, and the “Academy” is no longer interested in education, which includes skill-building, synergy, stewarding Christian Culture, and the Great Conversation. College might still be necessary for specific careers or fields, but it’s no longer mandatory for vocational success or a rite of passage required for upward mobility.  For many of us, college still seems like a reasonable goal. As homeschoolers, college acceptance validates the time and effort we’ve invested in our kids. As our kids launch, it’s a logical “next step” and an excellent, negotiable middle ground between childhood and adulthood.

Is the ROI of College worth it?

This experience leads us to some hard questioning if we are committed to launching our kids well. Is the traditional “4-year” college route, with debt, a smart way to go? As parents, how do we proceed in:

  • guiding and directing our young adults in a way that will position them well
  • launch them with  as little debt as possible
  • give them ever increasing responsibility and autonomy
  • utilize their talents

I believe that going through college – if your student needs that documentation for entering into a Big 10 Company, graduate school, etc., should be done as efficiently as possible. In other words, get college credits quickly and as inexpensively as you know how to do it. Work towards a degree program with clarity and focus. (For a fascinating look at most colleges’ pre-pandemic state of messy affairs, check out the book College Unbound).

College GEN ED’s 

For kids who are still preparing to graduate from a college or university, I would get General Education courses out of the way before hitting the college trail- either through Dual Enrollment or CLEP, or a combination of both.

30 Credits would be equivalent to 1 yr of College and remember that most college courses count for 3 credits:

6 Credits of English

  • Composition I*
  • Composition II/*

3-6 Credits of Math

  • College Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Accounting I or II

3- 9 Credits of Science

  • Environmental Science
  • Biology *
  • Chemistry*

3-6 Credits of Social Sciences

  • Psychology *
  • Sociology
  • Government*
  • Econ*
  • History

3-6 Credits of “Diversity” 

  • Religion
  • World Religion**

At True North Homeschool Academy, we are so committed to helping families re-think college that we offer many test prep courses. We also have a new Dual Enrollment program. Combining DE with CLEPs can save your student even more time and money- getting them on the road to independence sooner.

CLEP for College Credit

Not sure if the college or university of your choice (or should I say, within your financial reach) takes CLEPs? Some schools have it posted on their website. If you talk to admissions, but you can’t find it in print anywhere, it’s not binding, so check the website and catalog or ask the Admissions Counselor to write it on school letterhead, with a signature. Furthermore, you can always earn an Associate’s Degree from one of the “Big Three”- Thomas Edison, Excelsior, or Charter Oaks and transfer your Associate’s Degree from one of these accredited colleges. Because it’s an Accredited Degree, your credits and classes will transfer, and you can jump into upperclassman status, finish faster and not spend quite as much money.

The Importance of Learning Entrepreneurship

II encourage every young person I know to learn how to navigate the online world with at least some understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Developing an online business is even better, offering an online educational program, better still. Alternative Ed is booming and will continue to do so. Online education was a $1 billion business in 2010, was expected to be a 2.1 billion dollar business in 2020 (pre-pandemic estimates), and is now projected to be a $357-$435B business by 2023-2025. Learning to sell online can position any young person well, and you certainly don’t need a degree to learn online sales and marketing.

For those still eager to attend college, I would suggest creating an ANI or other Compare/Contrast chart to evaluate your ROI for the projected schools, degrees, and job prospects. If students have been working and saving for college but aren’t’ getting scholarship dollars that will allow them to graduate without extreme debt, other types of investments might be more prudent in both the short and long term.

What is the Return on Investment for College?

College ROI should be evaluated from both a monetary, lifestyle, and values point of view. Sending kids to college who aren’t clear about what they’ll be studying, or their vocational plans ultimately lead to more debt as they change majors or leave school. Further, with no clear job prospects or way to pay back the debt. The majority of college graduates (those who do graduate, and the 50% or so who don’t), leave college with an average of $37,000 in debt. They often graduate in six years instead of four.

Strategize Higher Education Investment

Once you’ve determined if higher education is worth the investment, determine a strategy. There are some exciting scholarship opportunities available. Scholarships like the Military (leadership and vocational training, along with a regular paycheck), Critical Languages, or Community Services Scholarships. Sports and NCAA opportunities provide excellent opportunities but often take years of lead-up time, parental time and money, and political astuteness. Particularly as we now navigate transgender athletes.

Develop You Students Stand Out Factor

Being intentional about helping your kids develop their sense of “otherliness” in unique and stand-out ways

It’s a whole new world to navigate for young adults, and it’s worth spending time thinking through alternatives to a traditional college experience. Like True North’s Orienteering course, a Vocational Exploration course can save thousands of dollars literally and get kids started on a vocational path while still in High School. Practical courses that will prepare our students for the Future of Work, including the increasing “Gig” Economy, are also prudent.

Career Exploration can save you TIME and MONEY

Not sure where to start? The Orienteering Course will help students explore their strengths and skillsets, look at various educational and vocational options and develop a plan. Courses that teach marketable, real-world skills, many of which we offer at True North Homeschool Academy, like:

These courses give students real-world, marketable skills. It’s not too early to begin researching college costs, talking with your students about the lifestyle they hope to live, and strategizing the best ways to make that happen.

Typical Course of Study

Don’t overlook the importance of a solid Jr and Sr High school Academic Program, complete with rubrics, gamification (courses will use it more widely over time), and grading. Your young adults will live and work in a world where being able to think and adapt quickly and collaboratively. A solid academic program lays an excellent foundation for that time of critical thinking. Not sure where to start in developing a program? Our Academic Advising programs are designed to work with and for your family.

Lastly, for students bent on a particular job that might entail college, check out our Young Professionals Series for practical, hands-on advice and actionable steps to develop your student’s professionalism while still in high school.

Take a listen to our ReThinking College podcast!

Our Academic Advising program, designed to help you create an actionable plan, will save you time, money, and frustration now and as you launch your young adult! SPED Advising is also available!