Higher education is an essential tool to pull your family out of poverty but it can also be a trap. There used to be a time when attending college and obtaining an advanced degree would guarantee you a great job with excellent pay. It is not that way anymore. Today, too many graduate students are in the unemployment line with thousands upon thousands of dollars in student loan debt. If you can’t pay for college, don’t do it solely with student loans — it’s a trap.
Colleges and universities’ high rates of tuition are creating a distinct dividing line between the have’s and the have-nots. “In 1970, the average yearly tuition was $358 for public four-year institutions and $1,561 for four-year.” Times are so bad now that Ph.D. candidates can’t even get a faculty job at a university anymore because of all of the part-time adjunct positions. It basically makes seeking a doctorate degree not worth the time, effort, or money.
In addition, government initiatives are working against Black and brown students attending higher education. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is gung-ho about suing ivy-league universities for accepting Black students over other ethnic groups. He is also doing his best to end Affirmative Action so that disadvantaged students won’t have any chance for a higher education. A recent partisan bill was almost passed to tax graduate-school scholarships as income, which would make it so that students could not afford to accept scholarships. In addition, public schools in urban areas are being defunded and the money is being funneled into private schools that constantly discriminate against Black children from their hairstyles to their skin color. These schools often raise their prices so that even with vouchers, an average urban family cannot afford for their child to attend the private school.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because there are people in our government that don’t want your child to attend higher education. They want your children to be workers at the most. Workers who don’t ask questions because they don’t know what questions to ask. For a long time, it’s been called the “Dumbing Down of America,” but the biggest areas affected are urban communities.
There was a time that I actually said aloud that, “I paid for my education all by myself and I appreciated it more. It made me work harder to get 4.0s knowing that I had to pay for those As and my children can do the same thing.” I am here to tell you that is a big mistake. That is sentencing your children to one new form of slavery called student loan debt, which can easily in the long-term keep them from purchasing a home. Purchasing a home is the easiest way to create generational-wealth. If an entire generation or more cannot purchase homes because of student debt and cannot get a job with the education they haven’t even paid for yet, we are setting them up for failure. Your children are your future, invest in their education.
What is the solution? Start right now saving for your child’s college. In hindsight, I wondered why my middle-income family never helped me with college, not even a book purchase. Don’t let your child grow up thinking that you don’t care enough to help them out, especially if you’re mandating that they attend college. I always wondered how parents can demand that their child goes to college but those same parents aren’t willing to finance it or even help them pay for books, which is a big expense.
You’re probably saying, “I’m a single mom. I can’t afford to save for a pedicure, let alone college for my kids.” Any contribution you can make before it is time for your child to go to college will help offset the student loans they will need. Here are some ideas to secure your child’s higher education.
• Request that birthday gifts be contributions toward your child’s college fund.
• Selling your home? Put money aside for college.
• See if your state has a 529 tax-advantaged savings plan which is designed to encourage saving for future education costs. 529 plans, legally known as “qualified tuition plans,” are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.
• Some states, like New York, are offering free tuition. “New York became the first state in the U.S. to offer its residents tuition-free attendance at public four-year colleges and universities and community college through the Excelsior Scholarship program.”
• Send your child to a high school that has a dual enrollment program in high school. Your child can graduate high school, which is free, with an associate’s degree by taking dual enrollment classes.
• College books are expensive, even if your savings only assist with paying for your child’s college textbooks this will be a tremendous help.
• Start seeking out possible college scholarships as soon as your child goes to high school. Create a Google document online with a list of scholarships that your child qualifies for and include the links and the dates you must submit an application. Make this a living document that you continue to add to throughout your child’s four-years in high school. Research scholarships at least once a month during that time to add to your list.
• Your child’s best friend in high school must be their guidance counselor. This is a squeaky-wheel gets the oil type of office at your child’s school. The more they see your child, the faster they will think of them for opportunities. If your child can volunteer in the guidance office, even better. Make sure that your child regularly reminds his or her counselor that they are seeking opportunities.
• Being seen in high school is a big deal, not for popularity but for opportunities. Make sure your child is involved in a highly visual extracurricular activity where all of the staff and administration knows the players. These are the students that are on the top-of-mind for perks, scholarships, and opportunities.
• Encourage your child to pick an HBCU as their first choice college and university. These schools support Black children, often provide scholarships and career opportunities that other colleges and universities don’t have.
• Before your child goes to college, research universities that offer free-graduate school. There are many and some even offer free housing and a yearly stipend. Harvard, Columbia, and many others have free doctoral programs.
• If money is an issue, have your child start their higher education at a community college where tuition is affordable and they have lots of grants and scholarship opportunities. Save money during this time for their bachelor’s degree at a recognized school. Often, schools with name recognition will help your child rise faster and higher in their career.
• Don’t get student loans and avoid parent loans. They are expensive and parent loans can cause a hardship since they are due immediately.
• If you have to get a loan, avoid borrowing more money than your child needs. Student loans are a trap and aren’t worth it unless you are able to pay it back within a five-to-seven-year time period after graduation, meaning you’re a doctor/lawyer/engineer or scientist – or in a high paying field. If you have to get a student loan, keep it under $10k so that it is easier to pay back.
• Don’t send your child to college without any help or financial assistance.