I have linked to a million articles about why rich kids grow up to be rich and poor kids grow up to be poor. If you want a nice summary of that data, check out this article in the Atlantic. The big takeaway is that the reason rich kids grow up to be rich is that they don’t have debt.
That’s really important, because the way kids accrue debt is usually through education. So it’s ironic that you want an education to improve your economic mobility, but the cost of education actually stifles mobility. Except for rich kids, because their parents pay.
I graduated from a very expensive private university with no debt. If I had been paying back school loans in my twenties, I would not have taken the risks I took, like getting on pro-beach volleyball circuit, or going back to graduate school for English.
I’m not saying that a graduate degree in English is the key to success in life, but taking risks is. And I took a risk by quitting the pro tour and going to graduate school, and I took a risk by leaving graduate school early when I realized knowing how to hand-code HTML in the early 90’s was worth $70/hour.
This data is right in line with the recent finding that the biggest factor about whether or not you’ll be a startup founder is how much money your parents have. Because kids don’t do startups when they have student loans to pay. You can’t live on Ramen noodles in an apartment with five other people if you have student loans to pay.
(A digressive rant: Silicon Valley is a bunch of overprivileged kids who think they somehow have earned their Peter Pan intelligentsia lifestyle when in fact, their parents bought that for them more than anything they did themselves.)
As homeschooling becomes more of a middle-class alternative to having to pay for private school those middle-class parents will need a plan to keep their kids out of debt during college.
Here are some things I’m thinking about for my own kids, who, by the way, have $0 in their college funds.
1. Win scholarships. Of course. At least for the cellist. And for homeschoolers, scholarships come easier because differentiation comes more easily to kids who aren’t stuck in a classroom all day.
2. Choose a state school. My older son wants to get a PhD. Which means his graduate school matters a lot more than his undergraduate school.
3. Attend community college for two years. I’m not sure but it seems really cheap. But I wonder if it undermines the credential, since I think if you’re going to bother getting a degree you should get it from a school people won’t scoff at.
4. Skip college completely. This choice is the most logical one, although I fear I might be all talk here since both my kids are on track to go to graduate school.
5. Parents take out the loans. I actually think I would do this before I’d have my kids take out loans. I know all the financial planners say that my kids should have the loans and not me. But the mental anguish I have seen kids contend with because of those loans seems to undermine all the intellectual freedom and risk-taking I’ve taught them to appreciate as homeschoolers.