(This post is part of the series on postsecondary education.)
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Looking over Mark's post with its set of curves comparing the lifetime net earnings of one sibling who starts working with only a high school diploma and one who borrows money for college, I see one takeaway point from a Catholic perspective.
They are not very different.
Given the assumptions that Mark made, the college graduate catches up with the high school graduate eventually, fairly close to retirement. Plugging in a different set of assumptions yields different curves. Some college-graduate curves outperform some high-school curves. Some high-school curves outperform some college-graduate curves.
Mark may write about what he thinks parents (and prospective students) should take away from the calculations. I'll tell you what I think you should take away from it. And that's this:
An individual person's choice to go to a four-year college does not automatically mean that person will be financially more comfortable than he would if he had chosen another path.
I emphasize this because the opposite assumption appears to be rampant.
Why is this what matters when Catholic parents consider what is their duty to their offspring?
"Children should be so educated that as adults they can follow their vocation... with a mature sense of responsibility and can choose their state of life; if they marry, they can thereby establish their family in favorable moral, social, and economic conditions" [GS52]
"[Education] will also acquaint those concerned with correct methods for the education of children, and will assist them in gaining the basic requisites for well-ordered family life, such as stable work, sufficient financial resources, sensible administration, notions of housekeeping" [FC66]
The reason it matters: Parents might well ask whether, if they encourage open-mindedness to a path other than college, they might be putting their children in danger of living without "sufficient financial resources" or "stable work" or "favorable economic conditions" to raise a family.
I think the data shows that such fears are unfounded.
The data just isn't there tosuggest that it's college that tips you from unfavorable conditions to favorable conditions.
Therefore, parents may with a clear conscience encourage children to consider other kinds of post-high school training.
Financial stability is only one goal of education, of course. It's still an open question whether college is necessary, or preferred, to fulfill any of the many non-material essential components of an education. I hope to consider that later in the series.