Launched Consulting Blog

Is College Worth It? My Washing Machine Theory

I have learned the hard way that if I even have a meager budget, I will no longer pick up that washing machine with the "free" sign on it that sits outside someone's yard.  I did that once.  The energy I spent hauling it home, putting it together, and agonizing over how to make it do its job, was not worth it.  No matter how free it was.

I have a habit (that I am trying to break) of succumbing to a bargain.  Countless little things of lousy quality, or things I never really needed. And unfortunately, some bigger things where the stakes were higher.  It is easy to associate a low price-tag with low risk, and likely less regret.

I have heard families say they won't send their child to college unless it is free.  Or really, really cheap.  The good news is, in fact, if your family lives in poverty, that premise is realistic.  There is a good chance if your child works hard, is involved, and prepares, he may go for free, or at least get a great bargain.  There are more than 20 full need-met colleges out there, and about 40 more that hit the 95% mark! 

But what if you are in the middle: that dreaded zone of "Have-Need-But-Not-Enough-Help"? 

Let’s look at college a different way and explore how a college succeeds.  Colleges need successful students.  They have invested in your student as collateral that they hope will pay them back when they graduate.  And they have a deep interest in your return on your investment.  In other words, a good college will meet some (hopefully most) of your need, and balance that with abundantly providing your student with resources to make their future worthwhile and successful.

Weighing the price tag, the debt, and the potential for your child to thrive and find a career that pays back is always nail-biting tough.  But *doing your homework and researching a wide range of colleges with financial aid profiles will reveal choices that may surprise you.  And finding the right fit, where your child is inspired and engaged, is a major part of the equation. 

So, instead of distastefully acknowledging colleges as businesses wanting to exploit your resources, who see students as Revenue Producing Units, we could instead see them as business partners who need our kids to thrive as much as our kids need the colleges.

And instead of seeing the college search as a bargain hunt, it may be intriguing to see it as a hunt for that symbiosis: where each thrives on the other and depends on the other for their health.  A healthy college match where your child is immersed in the resources will boost the chances that you will see a very healthy return on your investment.

I know there are so many stories of disappointment and even anger from families whose college experience has not met their expectations.  There is valid fear that precious resources will be wasted.  But for a family who is wondering "Is college worth it?", the answer depends on the symbiosis. And the biggest bargain may still disappoint.

*For resources to help you clarify the financial aid process, please visit my Facebook page   The whole month of April is devoted to sharing the best resources out there to help you make the best decisions possible! 

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