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21 September 2010


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Is it odd that this is one of my chief fears about homeschooling? It's probably way, way too early for me to be thinking about it, but I've already found that reading homeschooling blogs and the like has made me more of the "maybe 4 year college isn't for everyone, even including the exceptionally bright" mindset.

And my husband isn't there yet. I mean, we both agree that maybe college isn't or shouldn't be necessary if a high school degree actually reflected the competencies that it used to, or is supposed to, or something. But that's not the state of the world, so even jobs that could be done well with a high school diploma are all looking for college graduates. I guess the question is, what do you do in that situation?


Like I said, I'm not saying stop learning after high school. I'm saying that the attitude of "four years at a four year college automatically is the best choice" is not reasonable.

For a lot of people, it still is a viable


... choice (sorry), but that's not automatic. Can you pay for it without going into debt? If you do go into debt, do you really have prospects good enough to pay the debt promptly? Do you know what you're going to major in and how it's going to serve you?

Transfer colleges exist. Vocational training exists. Internships and apprenticeships exist. There is the military. There are public-service-for-education agreements. High school isn't enough for many jobs, but it hardly makes sense to go into debt on the assumption that it surely will pay. And I haven't started ranting yet about why any rational person would go into debt to attend a private school and major in something that will not produce a return sufficient to offset the debt.


I graduated from a private Catholic liberal arts college and my eldest is now attending the same college. I don't consider my time at that college wasted AT ALL. It was worth every penny. I think the main problem is that most colleges have become glorified trade schools. College education should be about educating the whole person, not about getting one ready for a job. Higher education should be about forming the intellect, imparting the skills necessary to discern and embrace truth.

The debt load from my college was not crushing as the college is very generous with financial aid and works hard to make sure no one graduates with large debt. The "Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College" is something that every Catholic parent should read before making the college decision.

As regards needing a college education to homeschool - I don't think it is a necessity, but I have seen in the different homeschooling groups I have been in that the women without higher education are less confident about their ability to homeschool and choose educational materials for their children. My husband and I have at different times held classes for homeschoolers. The students who are faithful and stick out the course are the ones from college families; the others are often inconsistent about attendence, don't take the class seriously or drop out before the end. I also noticed that children whose parent/s were educated in another country value education more than their US counterparts. I want to make it clear that I'm not being a snob or belittling anyone without a college education. I am just stating my observations during my 17 years of homeschooling. What the causes are is up for debate.


I have two different degrees. My first degree was a BA in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Berkeley. I transferred from a community college about halfway through and spent a year abroad, in all it took me 6 years. My mom paid for it with her inheritance. It was a must from her side of the family that all children receive higher education.

My second degree is a professional (contra academic) bachelor in nursing from a nursing school in Copenhagen. It took me 3,5 years and was paid for by Danish taxpayers, who also gave me financial aid for the duration. I now work full time as a nurse and I love it. There are advantages and disadvantages to the nursing education here; it is much less science-based than in the US and much more philosophical (the feeling being that you learn the practical aspects of nursing during your practicum).

Ironically, the nursing school taught me much more about philosophy, critical thinking, ethics, etc, etc, than my more generic "liberal" degree from Cal, which was glorified high school. And now I consider nursing, if not a vocation on par with marriage, a charism at least.

I don't *really* consider the first BA a total waste (even though my Russian is now extremely rusty), even though at this point what I got out of it was a husband, whom I met while in St. Petersburg. But it's pretty darn close.

So my vote is higher education with a huge grain of salt, and vocational choices do not necessarily exclude enrichment as a human being.


The grain of salt is what I think is missing from a lot of these discussions -- people write and talk about it as if it simply *must* be worth it to get an advanced degree at almost any cost. This assumption needs examination.

Barbara C.

I would have no qualms about my kids not going to college IF they had a viable alternative plan other than a very vague "I'm just going to get a job". I don't think that is a concept I would have arrived at if I hadn't started homeschooling.

I went away to college on scholarship, so I felt less guilty about not choosing a career-oriented major. To me it was about life learning and experiencing a wider variety of people and opportunities. Once I graduated, though, I realized that a college degree just gets your foot in the door and more bargaining power over pay. Experience mattered way more than education.

Homeschoolers, in general, probably have more time to explore their career options and gain real world experience. And their parents are probably more likely to offer guidance instead of expecting the school's counselor to do so. This puts the necessity of college in question.

Whereas a lot schooled kids are so caught up in the school machinery that college is made out to be the automatic next step even though they have no clear career goals or the critical thinking skills to make the most of a non-career oriented college path. (Speaking from experience.)

I've really been trying hard to work with my kids on discerning their vocation(s) (what God wants them to be) rather than their future career. And then we'll see how college fits into that.

Since my husband teaches at a community college where we get an employee discount, I suspect that most of our kids will attend there at some point.


What a timely post! This morning my local newspaper's headline read: Goal for Texas: 3 million more college degrees. The premise of the article is that you must have a degree to have "access to the middle class". I didn't feel the article covered the whole story behind college degrees for many of the reasons you mention. I have great issues with excessive college debt and the rising cost of a college degree (and the diminishing returns one receives!).


Wow, great post, lots of comments.

I went into the army at 17, 3 weeks after high school. I did my 4 years, had a great learning experience, and then used the money to pay for some college. I did not finish: Unplanned, unwed, pregnancy. I have enough credit for a bachelors, but not from one school. So I am taking online courses to finish up. It is hard, but a personal challenge sort of thing. Plus, and this may sound wacky, but I just want to have something in case anything should happen to my husband. In reality, I think I could earn more than him after my graduation. Should I then head into the workforce? That is for another discussion. :)

My oldest, my unplanned, is a sophomore. We have thought about college a lot. One interesting factor for us: most of our friends are very fundamentalist protestants -- they really do not support the idea of girls attending university. When we finally met some catholic teen girls and they just assume they are heading off, she started thinking about it and wants to attend Christendom. But one thing that I think many people should consider: dual enrollment and CLEP tests. I plan on her doing the CLEP tests for sure, perhaps some dual enrollment if she can attend with a friend, and also online like I am doing. Those are methods to lessen the costs. I have not looked into small colleges accepting transfers, but I am hopeful. We just cannot afford to pay for her college (6 kids, we homeschool) and I would hate to see her graduate with a ton of debt.


A Newsweek article about the "useless" liberal arts degree:



Delores, don't write off private Catholic schools, just assuming you can't afford it. We have a large family and our two eldest are going to Thomas Aquinas College and Wyoming Catholic College. These colleges have been very generous with financial aid. They both have a policy that if a student is accepted, they will find the money to help you attend. Really, folks are often surprised that our kids are going to private colleges - we drive clunkers, shop at thrift stores and live on a free-lance writer's income. Pray that God show his will for your children's future and many surprising doors will open.



First off, I grew up in a family headed by a wonderful man who worked most of my life for a state community/vocational college. I had a free ride at any state school because of it. Both my sister and I chose ridiculously expensive private colleges (both in Minnesota, ha), financed with scholarships (mostly) and student loans (still a nice chunk). I paid off my student loans within 3.5 years of graduation, and despite eating beans and rice those three years, I still say my education was worth every penny. I work at a state school now, and while I think my institution offers a quality education, I am so glad I went into debt for my education. (And glad it is paid off, ha.)

I was struck that you said that most of your contemporaries went to college. Growing up in a very poor area of rural MN, that was definitely NOT the case for my friends and classmates. I still remember my second semester at my elite private school, listening to people who had never watched their parents "skip" dinner because there was no food talking about how degrees were meaningless pieces of paper, and education should matter for the sake of education...and I felt like throwing up. Because that piece of paper that they were devaluing was my ticket to a different way of life- more security than my parents ever dreamed of, better work/pay/etc.

ALthough I hear your argument- and agree with you that the cost of education is ridiculous and means that serious thought is warranted (college is NOT for everyone!)...I just can't help but think of my father, a hardworking, caring, dedicated man who has worked at the same place for 23 years- and who makes less than if they hired a college grad with no experience to take his job, because he lacks a degree.

Sorry that turned into a book!



If you were able to pay your loans off in just a few years, it means that you must not have gone into a reasonable amount of debt relative to your earning potential. That's not the situation I'm talking about.

Many degrees are not meaningless pieces of paper. But a lot of them ARE. Some discretion is necessary to decide whether to go into debt for it!


I think it's a great time to not go to college. For kids with an entrepreneural bent, I'm not sure there's ever been a time with more opportunities than today. But for the college bound, here's how to get a degree from an accredited institution for $15,000 total: http://www.garynorth.com/products/item7.cfm
(it's a link to paid material, but a lot of the info can be found through google and YouTube. I have no affiliation or financial interest)

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