Op-Ed: Is College Really the Best Path for Your Child?

You Said It: College

“My child is going to (insert college of choice): Harvard, University of Illinois, Princeton, MIT, Wisconsin, Notre Dame.” Most parents, especially those fortunate enough to be able to pay for their son or daughter’s education, beam with pride to share that news.

But is a path to college the best choice for your child? If you have more than one, is it the best option for each child? What is good for one, may not be good for another. What if you cannot afford to send your child to college? Is all hope lost? Should your child dive into the student debt model?

Let’s start with the job market. First: Companies are realizing that skills in today’s market will be chosen over a diploma most times. There is a terrible lacking in all sorts of skills in the job market. Second: There will be careers developed when your child reaches the job market X number of years hence, that did not exist when they were getting out of high school. Third: Many of the conventional career paths have an overabundance of applicants and differentiating yourself from the crowd is almost impossible. Fourth: As with simple supply and demand models go, the more there is of something, the less it costs. Paying a quarter of a million dollars for a job that pays $50,000 a year is not exactly a great payback model. Last: So many of our graduates do not even use their degree for the job that eventually land in, most likely after they have moved back in with Mom and Dad, during the interim.

Let’s now consider the education side: Costs have skyrocketed out of control. College costs are 1400% higher now than they were in 1977. Comparatively a car is only 130% higher than one that sold in 1977. Housing is 840% higher now than it was in 1977. Hopefully you can see where I am going with this. Education has lost touch with what the market is asking or requiring. The cost/benefit ratio to spend the amount that a degree costs, is not in line with the outcome salary that it will produce.

Manufacturing is trying to chart a new path. This industry has needs that it cannot fill. Once again fewer choices = higher costs. So salaries are increasing because of fewer applicants. Meanwhile the cost of getting the skills needed is a sizable fraction of what the conventional diploma will cost. Fact is the return on education for manufacturing careers is significantly better.

Some of the basic percentages are that 13% should GO to college. That is approximately the ratio that go to college, graduate, and use their degree for their career. The balance are those who do not go to college, do not graduate, or do not use their degree for their career. So how do you know you are not in the 87%?

We raise our kids that they ARE GOING to college. But is IT RIGHT FOR THEM? Our culture has lost track of what the job market is demanding/requiring. For those of you whose child in in the 13% I applaud your commitment to support your child with a college education. For those who are not, you can do so many things to do the same. Does your child learn the way institutions instruct? I didn’t. I was an AP student and was bored to death in the manner that things were taught. I had trouble focusing and keeping interest. Seeing things, working on things made ALL the difference. As a parent I sent my kids to college, and each one of them found their way to great paying careers, but not all of them are using their degree, which is part of my point. There is a difference between being college ready and being career ready – Right?

ChampionNOW is an organization that is making a difference to inform both parents and students alike, of career ready options that our children now have. Our culture needs to change, and it is, only very gradually. This starts at home with each and every parent. On our site we have books, videos, articles, podcast interviews, all of which are intended to inform, educate, enlighten and inspire for career readiness. All of these resources are intended to explain that the conventional career path should not appeal for the majority of our youth.

Only a minority of our children should go the traditional path. If a four/five year college degree is for your child, that’s great. But what if it isn’t? Just knowing about an alternative ahead of time will be best for both your child and you as a concerned, loving and responsible parent. If your child cannot go to college – all is not lost. There is hope.

I would like to challenge both the child and the parents to start the dialog early about their passion, interests, talents, lifestyle hopes and wants. Internships early in their life will allow them to see not only what they do not want, but open their eyes to maybe something that they do want to consider as a career. Manufacturing careers stand ready to offer your child choices. It might be the most direct, efficient and quickest path to a lifetime of success and prosperity, but only if you know it exists as an option first.   

As part of our “You Said It” Op-Ed series, we invite contributors to submit their opinion pieces. Have a submission? Contact us.

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Terry M. Iverson is the President/CEO of Iverson & Company, a 92-year-old machine tool distributor and service provider. He founded ChampionNOW, a 501C3 to promote manufacturing careers, authored the book “Finding America’s Greatest Champion” and produced CNC Rocks educational manufacturing videos.