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Should Everyone Go to College?


On Monday, I shared the story of me talking to two of our daughters into dropping out of college. This blog might make a little more sense if you read that blog first.

It’s almost an axiom today that you must send your kids to college to get a good job. Is that really true?

I once had a conversation with a wonderful Christian couple, struggling financially to send two of their children to college and then law school, so they could get a good job.

I really pushed back on him. “What makes you think being an attorney is a good job?” He looked at me like I was joking! “No, I’m serious”, I said. “So they get this good job and then end up working 60 hours a week and stressing themselves out like you’re doing, to send their kids to college to “get a good job!” “Really?”

A “Good Job” First of all, let’s define what a “good job” is. Every good Christian parent should want their children, above all, to love God, be kind and thoughtful to others and to live fruitful, but contented lives for God.

If that’s what you also want for your children, then here’s my observation; lawyers, bankers, doctors and people in business are no more likely to be serious followers of Jesus and be happy or content than plumbers or carpenters.

Somehow we’ve gotten the notion that to be a college graduate and then a professional is “better” than being a person “in the trades” as it was once called. Where did we get that idea and how has it damaged some of our children?

We got those ideas from the American Dream, not the Bible or God. I think it’s true that a college degree significantly increases your income and lifestyle, but does it increase your happiness and your desire to be more Christ-like? I’ve seen no evidence of that. In fact, just the opposite.

Most of us have gotten the “you have to send your kids to college” idea from our friends. It’s almost a litmus test today of responsible parenting that your children go to college. If you chose differently, expect some raised eyebrows and be prepared to explain why you’ve chosen differently.

Three good reasons why college may not be a good choice for your child.

1. Debt The average college grad has $26,000 of debt. Next year, the interest rate on that debt will rise to 6.8% and is not deductible. Over 35,000,000 Americans have student loans.

Student loans may not be a problem if your child hopes to earn a MBA or be a doctor. But, if your child hopes to be a teacher or social worker that kind of debt might cripple them, just at a time they’ll also want to purchase a house or need to buy a car. Ironically, student debt is the #1 reason why Bible school grads are not going to the mission field.

2. Stress Not every student can handle the stress of college or failing the expectations of their parents. The number two cause of the death among college students is suicide. The number one reason for college suicides is depression caused by stress.

3. Lifestyle I can’t tell you how often I’ve spoken with Christian parents who were hoping their child lands a job with a large corporation, or becomes a doctor at some well-known hospital. Frankly, I can’t imagine why any Christian parent thinks that career path is one that will help their child live a life devoted to God, in the service of others and be family friendly. While I know many college grads working at the top of their fields who live balanced lives, devoted to God, it’s the exception, not the rule.

Making better choices. 1. Ask your child what they really want and why they want it. If their answer suggests money, power or because they’re afraid of disappointing you, don’t say a word to them until you’ve prayed about it and sought godly counsel.

2. Encourage your child to job shadow someone in their chosen field. Our son once job shadowed a man in the media field for a few days. That experience revealed how “family destructive” that type of job could be. Consider encouraging your student to set up some meetings with people in their chosen field and ask hard questions. You may want to help your student think up some questions they might not think to ask on their own, such as;

  1. How many hours do you work weekly?

  2. How does this profession impact family, your stress level and spiritual growth?

  3. What are the major reasons people in this profession succeed and also fail?

  4. What would you have done differently to prepare to be in this line of work?

Summary The point is to ask hard questions of yourself and your student regarding the unintended consequences of “success”. I’ve often made this observation about a “successful” person who failed in life; “He got what he wanted, but lost what he had.”

Following Jesus in Real Life

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